Volume 34, Issue 3, Summer 2015

Goldencrowned Flying Fox

A megabat species that plays an important ecological role in the Philippines


Species Spotlight

The golden-crowned flying fox (Acerodon jubatus) is a fruit-eating megabat found only in the Philippines. It is one of the planet’s largest bat species, with a wingspan up to 5 feet 6 inches long and a weight of up to 2.6 pounds. The genus to which it belongs, Acerodon, includes four other megabat species found in Southeast Asia. The golden-crowned flying fox, however, is the only one of this genus whose range encompasses a large part of the Philippines.

In areas where hunting and roost disturbance are prevalent, this megabat retreats to undisturbed native forests, avoiding humans, and often roosting on very steep and hard-to-access slopes 0–1,000 meters above sea level. Conversely, where laws against hunting are respected and disturbance is minimized, golden-crowned flying foxes can be found in forest patches near human population centers, including along roads and on resort grounds. In all cases, this species enjoys having other bat neighbors, as they share their roosts with several flying fox species—most commonly the large flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus).

Are you taller than a bat?The eating habits of this flying frugivore play an essential role in the multiple forest ecosystems in which it lives. As it eats fruits, primarily figs, it distributes their seeds all over the forest, contributing to reforestation in the Philippines. It also will sometimes eat fruit grown for agricultural use, but only if it is near undisturbed forests.

While the golden-crowned flying fox is one of the largest bat species in the world, it can be incredibly hard to find, as habitat destruction and hunting have caused huge declines in this species’ numbers in the past and continue to threaten its survival. Local communities hunt bats for sale, sport and personal consumption. In addition, more than 90 percent of the Philippines’ old-growth forests have been destroyed, and the species has completely disappeared from several of its old roosting sites on multiple islands.

In order to preserve the golden-crowned flying fox, BCI has been working with two Filipino non-governmental organizations that collaborate with national and local government units, other NGOs, and local communities to protect roosting sites and educate people.

 

All articles in this issue: