Published today in Science is a perspective on the current fate of flying foxes on islands that Christian Vincenot, Vincent Florens, and I put together.
Island flying foxes were recognized as a group of conservation concern over 30 years ago when intense hunting and commercial trading of species on Pacific islands precipitated the extinction of at least one species (the endemic Guam flying fox) and led to dramatic declines in others. This resulted, in 1989, in all species of Pteropus and Acerodon (flying foxes) being included on CITES (Convention on Trade in Endangered Species) appendices that restrict or regulate international trade. 30 years later, flying fox populations on islands are still declining because of hunting and habitat loss, and new issues, notably conflict between bats and fruit growers over crops have arisen. As the Old World Co-Chair of the Bat Specialist Group of the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission, I have been directly involved in efforts to resolve the conflict in Mauritius. The conflict has led the government of Mauritius to implement two mass culls of the species in two years (see article).
Island flying foxes are hunted and persecuted throughout their range. Blyth’s flying fox killed by villagers in the Andaman islands. Photo Rohit Charavatry
In 2016, Chris, Vince and myself contributed to a special symposium on the Conservation of Island Vertebrates
at the 2nd International Conference of Island Evolution, Ecology and Conservation. We were all presenting on issues facing flying foxes on islands and realized it was time to see where we stood 30 years on. As we suspected, tragically the status of flying foxes on islands has worsened and urgent conservation action is needed.
Some great press coverage from
Deutschland Funk Radio: on the show “Forschung Aktuell”. Audio here
Ain’s wonderful paper entitled “Resource availability and roosting ecology shape reproductive phenology of rain forest insectivorous bats” is available online in Biotropica DOI: 10.1111/btp.12430 (or you can request through my Researchgate page).
Ain spent 20 months tracking reproductive activity in 11 species of female bats in a Malaysian rainforest, and is the first study to simultaneously track both available insect biomass and local weather. The findings show different reproductive patterns in cave- vs. forest-roosting bats, which we suggest may be attributed to the cost of commuting.
Ain hard at work in Malaysia, assessing reproductive status of cave- (bottom left) and forest-roosting (bottom right, top center) bats.
Nurul‐Ain Elias, Hashim Rosli, and Tigga Kingston. “Resource availability and roosting ecology shape reproductive phenology of rain forest insectivorous bats.” Biotropica
(2017). DOI: 10.1111/btp.12430
Well done indeed to Ben and Iroro — recipients of 2016 Student Research Scholarships from Bat Conservation International. Only 17 awards were granted, so they did a great job.
Iroro’s project is entitled “Ecological predictors of forest interior insectivorous bat habitat and conservation of the vulnerable Hipposideros curtus” and she received special recognition as a “Women in Conservation Science Award Recipient”. Iroro is out in the field even as we speak.
Ben’s project “Conservation assessment of Rousettus aegyptiacus: hunting effects and ecosystem services in southern Nigeria” is off to a flying start — he heads to the field this summer.
The Kingston lab would like to express its sincere thanks to Bat Conservation International for their support, and congratulations to all this year’s recipients — some great work going on!