The Creatures of Fiji
Many of the common animals that live in Fijian villages aren’t so different than the U.S. In Tawake we have dogs, cats, chickens, pigs, and horses. However, these animals run loose in the village, free to roam where they please. It would a weird site to see chickens roaming around a suburb in Northern Virginia, but that’s how it is here.
The main difference between the animals here and in the states is that there aren’t any kept here without a purpose. Also, most animals aren’t fed—they must be self-sufficient hunters or gatherers to survive. The people here work hard for their food and it would be a waste to them to give it all to some animal that is capable of doing that work itself.
Since Fijian’s leave their doors open all day, it is not uncommon to have a rooster or hen enter a house while its occupants are in another room. I once walked over to the village store, was only there for five minutes, and when I walked back in my house a rooster squawked and glided out the other door. It scared the daylights out of me because it was unexpected, but I learned to close my doors, even if I am not going far.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to get the eggs from a chicken because they don’t have a single pen in which they sleep, they just go to different places throughout the village. So in order to eat their eggs, one must find them, which is a nearly impossible task. Also, the chickens are only killed to be eaten when there are too many of them or when there is a special event. Otherwise, if a family just wants chicken one night, they are more likely to buy a frozen one from the store.
The dogs here can be obnoxious, because they fight a lot and rummage through people’s things looking for food. I was once keeping a small container of tuna for my kitten in my bathroom so it didn’t attract ants into my house. The dogs smelled it that night, crawled under the door to my bathroom, got it out, and chewed the top of to eat the contents, ruining a perfectly good container that I had just purchased.
However, they do have a purpose. Dogs are for hunting. The only thing to be hunted here is wild boar, but a single one of those can be lunch and dinner for the entire village. Just the other day some people were walking to Lagi, the closest village to us, and the dogs ran off into the woods, barking. Later that night we found a boar they had dragged down to the beach. It was a nice change from fish to have boar stew for lunch the next day.
Cats are for rats. The rats usually stay away if the smell a cat in the house, but if they are cheeky enough to enter, the cat will kill it and eat it. During the day, when the cats get hungry, they will run off to the bush to hunt rats. As a bonus, they love killing and eating the bugs that fly around the lights in the house at night.
This is the reason I finally decided to get a kitten. I had a big rat problem, killing one or two every time I came back from a trip to town, and few when I hadn’t gone anywhere. As soon as I got a kitten, the rats stopped coming. Musashi (my kitten) hasn’t even had to kill one yet. Last night I couldn’t find him and so he didn’t sleep at my house. In the morning I found rat poop. Cats are useful.
Then there are pigs. The main benefit of pigs is pretty obvious—they are delicious. However, as an added benefit, they are the perfect village composter. Any food scraps or other things I would usually put in a compost pile, I just put in a bucket to bring to the pigs. They eat everything. It’s great for village cleanliness, and we are getting scrumptious meat in exchange.
Lastly, the horse. The horse has one main benefit, and that is to get a person and their belongings where they need to go quickly and efficiently. They also act as great lawn mowers. Here in Fiji we don’t feed the horses grain, like people do in America. That gets very expensive, very quickly. The villagers just tie them up in new spots every once in a while, or even just let them roam free. They bring them fresh water to drink, and when they need a bath they are led to the ocean.