Through the Vines and Trees of Kayangel, Palau

Island Conservation Project Manager Tommy Hall tells the tangly tale of forest navigation and wildlife seeking on the island of Kayangel, Palau.

By: Tommy Hall

Navigating Kayangel’s terrain is no walk in the park. In 2013 Kayangel received a direct hit from a Super-Typhoon that devastated the forest and the village. Many of the trees in the forest were knocked down and have since become overgrown by a fast-growing vine that seems to swallow vast chunks of the demolished forest.

One of our challenges is going to be battling this thick vegetation to access every part of the island, with the exception of the sacred area that only the matriarch of the community can visit (we aren’t even allowed to know where it is). Some parts of the forest are an impenetrable tangle of fallen trees and a thick mess of vines; walking through the forest is a struggle unless at least one person carries a machete. As expected, the locals wield a machete as if it’s an extension of their own arm. I have improved my machete skills infinitely in my years of work on tropical islands but I am still a complete beginner when compared to these guys.


When trekking across the post-storm island, machetes are a must. Credit: Jason Zito/Island Conservation

While exploring the forest it is common to catch a glimpse of a large black-winged creature silently flapping away to safety, these are the Palauan Fruit Bats sometimes called Flying Foxes (the Palauans also make a traditional soup with these bats). For bats, these guys are impressively large and undeniably cute-looking. Several of the locals keep fruit bats for pets in hanging cages in the front of their homes so it’s easy to get a closer look. Another of my favorite native species is the Green Tree Skink. These tree dwelling reptiles have a pleasant emerald green skin so vibrant it almost doesn’t seem real. There are also number of interesting bird species to be found, including the Palauan Megapode, which I usually hear before I see, using their large powerful feet to kick soil and leaf litter into massive piles to lay their eggs in.

For bats, these guys are impressively large and undeniably cute-looking.


Micronesian Megapode. Credit: Tommy Hall/Island Conservation

We hope that with our project to remove invasive rats we can protect these beautiful and fascinating species, some of which can’t be found anywhere else on Earth.

To be continued…

Read Part 1: A Skillful Approach to Kayangel, Palau
Read Part 2: Nocturnal Fieldwork & Crocodile Hunting in Palau

Featured photo: Working through the deep Palauan vegetation. Credit: Jason Zito/Island Conservation

About Tommy Hall

Tommy earned his BS in biology from California Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo, where he worked on a variety of biology and ecology projects. Traveling with his father in the mountains of California and around the world served as the catalyst for igniting Tommy’s passion for preserving the beauty of natural ecosystems. As an avid outdoorsman, Tommy enjoys fishing, hunting, surfing, and backcountry snowboarding.

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