Bat conservationists from throughout Sub-Saharan Africa – a small but wonderfully dedicated collection of individuals who often toil in near isolation on this vast continent – will come together February 10-16 for the first-ever African Bat Conservation Summit. The primary goal of the conference, with Bat Conservation International as the organizing sponsor, is to begin designing and launching a bat-conservation network to enhance collaboration and planning across the continent.
A team of top bat scientists and conservationists from Europe, Latin America, Australia and the United States will also attend the session at Naivasha, Kenya, to share their knowledge and experience. But BCI’s Dave Waldien stresses that the network, and the conservation strategies it undertakes, will be created by conservationists who represent 18 African countries.
“What we have learned in our own countries can provide valuable lessons,” Waldien said. “But local conservationists are best able to identify the challenges they face and develop the most effective means of meeting those challenges.”
Africa is home to more than 20 percent of the world’s more than 1,250 bat species, and those bats provide essential ecological services across Africa, with great benefits to agriculture, forest regeneration and public health. Yet the bat populations throughout Africa, as in many other regions, are in decline – battered by loss of habitat and water resources, disturbances of crucial roosts and, in some areas, by bush-meat hunting. Needless fears fed by long-standing myths and misinformation greatly complicate their conservation.
Details of this new network will be devised at the summit, but the goal is to improve communication and collaboration among widely scattered individuals and groups, to identify key bat-conservation priorities and to foster collaborative training programs and conservation efforts. The network is expected to help local, national and regional leaders establish sustainable bat-conservation initiatives across Sub-Saharan Africa.
This unprecedented meeting can lay the foundation for a vibrant new movement dedicated to reversing bat-population declines and increasing knowledge and concern for these invaluable animals that are too often lost in the shadows of Africa’s celebrated “charismatic megafauna.”
Thanks to the generosity of BCI’s members and friends, meanwhile, each summit participant will receive a complimentary copy of Ecological and Behavioral Methods for the Study of Bats, edited by Thomas H. Kunz and Stuart Parsons. This text is considered one of the best resources available for professional bat researchers, educators and conservationists.
The steering committee for the first African Bat Conservation Summit includes:
Dave Waldien, Ph.D. (BCI, United States)
Paul Racey, Ph.D. (University of Exeter in Cornwall, United Kingdom)
Paul Webala, Ph.D. (Karatina University College, Kenya)
Ara Monadjem, Ph.D. (University of Swaziland, Swaziland)
Jakob Fahr, Ph.D. (University of Braunschweig, Germany)
Cullen Geiselman, Ph.D. (BCI Board of Directors, United States)
Julie Hanta (Madagasikara Voakajy, Madagascar)
Other sponsors include:
Beneficia Foundation, Rufford Foundation, The Field Museum, Woodtiger Fund, Island Foundation, U.S. Fish &Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service International Programs, The Specified Fund at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, The Brown Foundation Inc. of Houston and USAID.