Bat Conservation International envisions a vibrant, diverse and expanding community advancing bat conservation across Africa and on the surrounding islands. We will work collaboratively to achieve lasting conservation that prevents extinctions, identifies and protects the world’s Significant Bat Areas, and develops proactive solutions to serious threats.
Africa and its neighboring islands are home to more than 269 (>21%) of the world’s bat species. According to the IUCN, the Democratic Republic of the Congo currently has the most species documented with at least 119 species – new species continue to be described and known species are regularly being documented in new areas as there is a growing movement on bat research and conservation.
The diverse bat communities of Africa provide a broad array of ecosystem services that directly and indirectly benefit human communities. The migration routes of the straw-colored fruit bat (Eidolon helvum) across much of Sub-Saharan Africa are critical to the pollination and seed dispersal of native trees to help sustain Africa’s threatened forests. Insect-eating bats, like the molosids (free-tailed bats) in Swaziland, have been documented to provide important pest control services for sugarcane farms.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifies 45 African bats as Near-Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered. Bats in Africa face challenges not unlike those elsewhere -- loss of roosting and foraging habitat from the conversion of natural lands by logging, agriculture, mining and major infrastructure projects, and loss of open water in the Sahel and other arid and semi-arid regions experiencing encroaching desertification due to overgrazing and climate change. The hunting of bats for bushmeat is another widespread threat to bats in Africa. Bats also roost in buildings throughout much of Africa, which unfortunately creates conflict and, more often than not, instills a negative public sentiment toward bats.
Bat Conservation International will work with and through collaborative partnerships to achieve lasting bat conservation across Africa. Given the limited information on Africa’s bats, we anticipate our initiatives will include targeted research to answer critical questions to inform our conservation, as well as inventories of the bat communities, assessments of habitats, and community awareness campaigns in priority regions. We will collaborate to build upon local leadership and capacity, while also proactively working to broaden and strengthen it.
Bat Conservation Africa, a network launched in February 2013, is one of our primary partners and we will continue to work with them on targeted initiatives. We will encourage other non-governmental organizations, universities, local, regional and national governments, as well as corporate organizations to engage in effective collaborative partnerships in regions of high conservation value for bats.