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Mauritius Bat Cull Update: Death toll exceeds 20,000.

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Mauritius Bat Cull Update: Death toll exceeds 20,000.

Published on December 14, 2015

Dead Mauritian flying foxes

Mauritius flying foxes killed as a part of the government endorsed cull.
Credit: Zahirah Abdooraman

Vikash Tatayah, Conservation Director for the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF), has confirmed that the official government endorsed cull of the threatened Mauritian flying fox (Pteropus niger) is officially over, at least for this year. While the official cull has ended, thousands more are thought to have been illegally killed – and the illegal killing continues. While we will never know the true number of bats killed, experts state there is no doubt that the government’s target to kill 20,000 threatened Mauritian flying foxes was exceeded. Vikash is very concerned that the bats are in dire straits as the cyclone season has begun.

The government approved the cull in hope that fewer bats would help reduce damages to fruits like mangoes and litchis in orchards and boost revenue for fruit farmers. Prior to the cull, conservation leaders in Mauritius and around the world took a stand and voiced serious concerns over the decision by the Mauritian government to conduct the cull, especially as it was based on questionable science that was contradicted by new research and extensive expert opinion.

“This decision sets a dangerous precedent - it could be one of the first times that culling of a globally threatened species has been authorized against all the scientific evidence and when there are more effective alternatives available.” Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. 

Bat Conservation International (BCI) joined with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission and many others in asking the government to reconsider their decision. Thousands of BCI members and other dedicated conservationists from Mauritius and around the world voiced their concerns. The IUCN even sent a delegation to discuss with the government and halt the impending cull (which failed to end the cull).

Sadly, our combined voices, logic, science, and recommendations were not heeded.

Constructive and viable solutions are needed in Mauritius. Negotiations and plans to mitigate the damage from the current cull and to ensure it does not happen in the future are underway. An island-wide survey is needed to confirm the number of survivors. With the support of BCI and others, the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation is undertaking an education and awareness campaign to counter the misinformation that has been spread. This will be kicked off with an education officer being placed on the ground in January 2016. Further, MWF is drafting a motion to the IUCN to prevent this from happening again, anywhere in the world. BCI has agreed to be a cosponsor of the motion which will be presented at the 2016 World Conservation Congress.

Unfortunately, the threats to bats continue to grow and we expect the number of globally endangered bats to grow as well. There are over 1,330 species of bats and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species currently have identified 78 species as Endangered or Critically Endangered. An assessment of these bats is underway and we expect the number of Endangered or Critically Endangered bats to increase in the coming years. Under BCI’s board approved strategic plan, we have launched a global initiative to proactively work to prevent the extinction of bats. The needs are great and BCI recognizes that we will not be able to be engaged on all endangered species initiatives and we ask the world to make proactive conservation of bats, especially globally endangered bats, a top priority.

Christmas Island pipistrelle
Christmas Island pipistrelle Credit: Lindy Lumsden

The 2009 extinction of the Christmas Island pipistrelle (Pipistrellus murrayiserves) as a tragic reminder to BCI and the rest of the world that bat extinctions are not simply a remote possibility, but a cruel reality of what happens when warning signs are disregarded, reactions are slow, and the foundation for sustainable conservation was not established.

We live in a time of unrest and uncertainty with human population growth and the increasing impacts on our environment from climate change and the increasing rate of loss of native habitats. Scarce resources all too often results in greater conflict between people and wildlife. Effective conservation demands that we work with people to hear and understand their concerns and develop viable solutions. If we fail to take into account the needs of people, we risk further crises like we are seeing in Mauritius.

Join BCI and help support the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and others around the world as they lead the fight to save endangered bats.



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