Bat Conservation International envisions working across Asia to address the region’s highest bat conservation priorities, like preventing extinctions, and with a strong focus on supporting the development of local capacity and partnership networks to ensure our efforts are sustainable. We will work collaboratively to achieve lasting conservation outcomes that protect Significant Bat Areas, build greater awareness with the public and with policymakers about the value and vulnerability of Asia’s bats, and develop proactive solutions to address the region’s many serious threats.
Asia is a vast region, boasting an amazing diversity of bat species and habitat. The region is home to at least 448 of the world’s 1,300+ species of bats. These range from the world’s smallest bat, called the bumblebee bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai), to the largest bat on the planet (by weight), the golden-crowned flying fox (Acerodon jubatus). Within Asia, Indonesia has a current tally of 219 distinct bat species, making it the country with the greatest number of species in the world. Unfortunately, 25 of Asia’s bat species are currently listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as either Endangered or Critically Endangered, and another 36 are considered Vulnerable.
Asia Bat Species Richness
BCI has been engaged in various Asian countries since our founding in 1982, working collaboratively to combat the many threats facing bats in the region. Deforestation and the loss of associated roosting and foraging habitat is a major threat to Asian bats, as some countries have lost more than 80% of their primary forest cover due to over-exploitation of timber and land conversion for agriculture. Destruction and disturbance of cave roosts is another major problem, with guano mining, swiftlet nest collection, irresponsible ecotourism, and bushmeat hunting motivating people to enter caves and damage prime subterranean habitat. The same can be true for large, tree-roosting bats, many of which have been over-hunted for local consumption or for shipment to other countries where bat meat is considered a rare delicacy. Such threats are putting at risk the survival of countless species and with them their invaluable ecosystem services – like seed dispersal – which are vital for the promoting reforestation and healthy ecosystems. Thankfully, the hunting and export of bats is illegal in many Asian countries, but enforcement and local buy-in are not always strong enough to give bats a chance to recover their diminished populations.
Crews load tons of guano into sacks like these for sale as a primary material in fertilizers. Unregulated guano harvesting from caves can have extremely negative impacts on roost sites, even causing entire bat colonies to abandon caves where they may have roosted for hundreds of years. BCI and our partners have been testing a new set of “sustainable” guano mining guidelines for adoption by the IUCN and implementation at sites around the globe.
BCI works closely with a diverse set of partners and networks in Asia to conserve the most threatened bat species and habitats. One such partner is the Southeast Asian Bat Conservation Research Unit SEABCRU, which was founded in 2007 to help build regional capacity and coordinate high-priority research and conservation programming for the bats of the ten ASEAN member states.
BCI also supports the educational training and outreach work of the Chiroptera Conservation and Information Network of South Asia (CCINSA), which is based in India. Apart from these regional networks, BCI is fortunate to have many local NGOs and dedicated individuals to work alongside as we endeavor to promoting research, conservation, and education, while building local and regional capacity to ensure long-term conservation impacts in Asia.
© Kendra Phelps. Cave conservation efforts can draw lots of attention from the general public. This crowd in the Philippines gathered to watch graduate student, Kendra Phelps, and her team collect data. Although distracting, these moments create perfect opportunities to provide much-needed education to local populations about the value and vulnerability of their bat