Bat Week 2019: Remember to thank the bats for our durian!

The last week of October is official International #BatWeek! It takes place from the 24th to the 31st. Download press kit here.

It’s an opportunity to celebrate all the many different ways bats are awesome, and to remember why we humans need them, and also to overturn the prevailing negative images and associations with bats that get particularly ramped up during this time of the year.

Bats are NOT scary, spooky, creepy, or evil. Bats are helping us! To kick off Bat Week 2019 and explain how exactly bats help people in Southeast Asia specifically, Project Pteropus has produced this informative and educational video on how durian trees get pollinated by fruit bats. Using watercolour drawings by local artist Novia Shin, and animated by Penang-based production company Hatchtag Media, it was made possible through partnerships with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Year of the Durian, Green Acres Orchard, Cintai Tioman, the Southeast Asian Bat Conservation Research Unit, and Mabuwaya Foundation – thanks to grants generously provided by the Rufford Foundation, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Habitat Foundation.

This video is also available in Malay and Mandarin (Simplified Chinese subtitles). If you would like to obtain a copy for your own non-profit conservation outreach or environmental education purposes, please contact Sheema.

Happy Bat Week and let’s look forward to the next durian season when we can #thankthebats again!!

 

Media Statement: Deforestation for durian plantations poses serious long-term risks to industry’s productivity and profitability

Download the statement in pdf format: Deforestation for durian plantations poses serious long-term risks to industry_s productivity and profitability

Kuala Lumpur, 25 October – We refer to the recent news report by The Star’s Sim Leoi Leoi and Ong Han Sean: ‘Jungle’s goodness gone – and it’s legal’, on 23 October 2018. We are concerned that the durian, Southeast Asia’s beloved ‘king of fruits’ and such a culturally significant element of this region, is turning into the next new monoculture crop driving yet more deforestation and biodiversity loss in Malaysia.

This not only causes the destruction of critical habitat for wide-ranging animals such as tigers, elephants, primates, and hornbills – it also reduces the numbers of the very pollinators that are necessary for durian fruit production, and which the durian industry therefore heavily relies on for profit.

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Musang King durians for sale in Peninsular Malaysia. COPYRIGHT: PIERRE-MICHEL FORGET

Unlike other monoculture crops such as oil palm and rubber, the Durio zibethinus durian tree is native to Malaysia, a natural component of our unique tropical ecosystem. As it cannot self-pollinate, it requires a specific native pollination system that has evolved over millennia, which involves a unique, complex, and specialised set of interactions between the tree and the wild animal pollinators that it depends on. Research has shown that the only truly efficient natural pollinators of the durian trees are the plant-visiting bats of the family Pteropodidae (see Project Pteropus press release: ‘Durian industry may suffer without endangered fruit bats’ for further information).

Commonly referred to as ‘fruit bats’, this vitally important animal group is the most effective at performing natural durian pollination, providing an essential and irreplaceable service to the durian industry for free. Yet Malaysia’s long-distance durian pollinators, the giant fruit bats known as flying foxes (Pteropus hypomelanus and Pteropus vampyrus), are already severely threatened by hunting. Any further removal of their forest habitat and food resources will continue to reduce the effectiveness of their role in durian fruit production. On top of this, the durian-pollinating Cave Nectar Bat (Eonycteris spelaea) is threatened by uncontrolled limestone quarrying. Any removal of forest around or near limestone karsts will reduce the habitat suitability of these caves, and will also prevent the bats from travelling further to the durian farms that are in need of pollination.

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Video-trap footage showing a flying fox pollinating durian flowers. COPYRIGHT: RIMBA

Although there is some preliminary research suggesting that the Asian Giant Honeybee (Apis dorsata) can also serve as a secondary pollinator in areas with no bat pollinators, it is restricted to a strictly supporting role with greatly reduced fruit production – and this threatened insect group is also highly dependent on pristine rainforest habitat for its survival.

Therefore, destroying pollinator habitats and food resources in order to establish durian monoculture simply does not make good business sense. Companies that engage in this practice are prematurely destroying the very future profits that they hope to derive from their durian business in the first place. In the absence of our native, natural pollinators of durian trees, farmers would have to invest extra time, labour, and money to hand-pollinate their trees. Continue reading

Press Release: New State Park to Strengthen Biodiversity Protection in Malaysia

KUALA TERENGGANU, 15 August – Malaysia’s Terengganu state government announced today that it has designated 10,386 hectares of land formerly slated for logging as a new protected area for conservation. This new state park in the Kenyir region of Terengganu is phase one of a much larger conservation project that lies within a globally important Tiger Conservation Landscape and critical wildlife corridor.

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The creation of this protected area and its ongoing management is a collaborative effort involving the Terengganu state government, and local nonprofit organization Rimba, in partnership with Rainforest Trust and Panthera/Woodland Park Zoo.

“This new protected area not only brings more key wildlife habitat under protection, but also protects vital forested watersheds that provide important ecosystem services to the people of Terengganu,” said Dr. Sheema Abdul Aziz, President of Rimba.

Estimated at more than 130 million years old, the dipterocarp forest in the Lawit-Cenana State Park is now protected from logging and secured from further development.

“The importance of this area simply cannot be underestimated,” said Rainforest Trust Chief Executive Officer Dr. Paul Salaman. “The creation of the new park is a rare and unparalleled opportunity to protect a spectacular and imperiled tropical forest harboring what is certainly one of the planet’s most awe-inspiring predators – the Critically Endangered Malayan Tiger.”

The forests of the new park contain some of the highest biodiversity in Asia and are home to 18 highly threatened mammal species, including the Asian Elephant, Sunda Pangolin, Asian Tapir, Dhole and White-handed Gibbon. Six of Malaysia’s eight wild cat species prowl these forests, including the Malayan Tiger.

“These apex predators face tremendous pressure from poaching, fuelled by the illegal trade in their body parts for traditional Chinese medicine,” said Dr. Gopalasamy Reuben Clements, lead investigator of Rimba’s Harimau Selamanya project and Associate Professor at Sunway University. Continue reading