“Can we protect island flying foxes?” Science perspective published today

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 (in German)

 

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