BCI Outraged by Planned Kill of Endangered Bats

Bat Conservation International (BCI) condemns the decision of the government of Mauritius to kill 13,000 individuals of the endangered Mauritius fruit bat (Pteropus niger)

Pteropus niger

The recently-announced killing will reduce the remaining worldwide population of this endangered bat by another twenty percent. Killings in 2015 and 2016 resulted in 38,000 individual deaths, causing the Mauritius fruit bat to be become Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Illegal hunting, accidental mortality due to powerlines and mortality due to natural disasters, such as cyclones, already severely threaten this bat species. Reducing the population of these island-dwelling bats to dangerously-small numbers will push this species even closer to the brink of extinction.

The Mauritius fruit bat is a large flying fox that is found only on the islands of Mauritius and Reunion. These bats play a vital role in island environments as seed dispersers of native rainforest trees. But natural forest is now desperately scarce on the island due to deforestation. Only 5% of native forest habitat remains on the island. Without enough native trees to provide food, the bats have learned to forage in fruit orchards to survive.

Fruit growers worry that fruit bats cause substantial amounts of damage to important crops such as lychee and mangos. Recent research shows that significant damage to fruit crops is also due to other animals, such as rats, non-native birds, as well as natural fruit fall. Killing Mauritian fruit bats is counter to existing scientific evidence that shows previous culls did not result in increased fruit production or profit.

There are solutions other than killing. A recent study shows that netting fruit trees can result in a 23-fold reduction in fruit damage by bats. Tree netting has been successful in Australia and Israel to reduce fruit bat damage, and can protect both fruit crops and bats in Mauritius. Non-lethal solutions such as netting and pruning, or research on other deterrents can offer protection for both farmers and bats.

Bat Conservation International stands with the IUCN and the global community in appealing to the Mauritian government to immediately stop killing of the Mauritius fruit bat. BCI advocates and supports on-going work to develop and implement evidence-based, effective, non-lethal strategies to reduce conflicts between fruit growers and the Mauritius fruit bat. Programs such as the Fruit Protection Scheme, which encourages farmers to purchase tree nets to protect against fruit bats, and workshops involving local stakeholders to identify solutions to protect fruit crops and bats are the steps needed to develop sustainable coexistence.

Literature Cited:

Kingston, T., Florens, V., Oleksy, R., Ruhomaun, K. and Tatyah, V. 2018. Pteropus niger. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T18743A86475525. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-1.RLTS.T18743A86475525.en

Florens, F.B.V., Baider, C., Martin, G.M.N., Zmanay, Z., Oleksy, R., Krivek, G., Vincenot, C.E., Strasberg, D., and Kingston, T. 2017. Disproportionately large ecological role of a recently mass-culled flying fox in native forests of an oceanic island. Journal for Nature Conservation 40: 85-93.

Oleksy, R., Ayady, C.L., Tatyah, V., Jones, C., Froidevaux, J.S.P., Racey, P.A., and Jones, G. 2018. The impact of the Endangered Mauritian flying fox Pteropus niger on commercial fruit farms and the efficiency of mitigation. Oryx

Florens, F.B.V., and Baider, C. 2019. Mass-culling of a threatened island fox species failed to increase fruit growers’ profits and revealed gaps to be addressed for effective conservation. Journal of Nature Conservation 47: 58-64.