Publication update 21: Project Pteropus press release: Durian Industry May Suffer Without Endangered Fruit Bats

Flying foxes pollinate regionally important fruit crop

Kuala Lumpur, 19 September – Scientists here have discovered that Southeast Asia’s highly popular durian tree is pollinated by locally endangered fruit bats known as flying foxes.

By putting camera traps in durian trees on Tioman Island, Malaysia, researchers collected video evidence showing the island flying fox (Pteropus hypomelanus) pollinating durian flowers, leading to the production of healthy durian fruit. The study has just been published in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

Fig.3
Still shots from a video recording of a flying fox feeding on durian flower nectar.

The spiky tropical durian fruit is highly prized throughout its native region. A ubiquitous icon of Southeast Asian culture, it is also a lucrative industry, generating millions of US dollars in local and international trade. And these economic profits owe a huge debt to bats.

Commonly referred to as flying foxes, large fruit bats of the genus Pteropus are severely threatened by hunting and deforestation. They are often sold and eaten as exotic meat due to an unsubstantiated belief that consuming them can help cure asthma and other respiratory problems.

On top of this, they are also persecuted and killed as agricultural pests, as some people claim that the bats cause damage and economic loss by feeding on cultivated fruits. Consequently, these factors have led to severe declines in flying fox populations worldwide.

Yet these bats actually play very important roles as seed dispersers and pollinators in rainforests, especially on islands. The disappearance of flying foxes could thus have disastrous repercussions for tropical ecosystems. Now, this international team of researchers from Malaysia, France, India, and Thailand, in collaboration with Tree Climbers Malaysia, has found that Southeast Asia’s durian supply could be affected too. Continue reading

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Project Update 22, Publication Update 20: Project Limestone Press Release

Scientists and Lafarge Malaysia Collaborate to Study Threatened Land Snails

Kuala Lumpur – Scientists and Lafarge Malaysia recently embarked on a joint study to document the diversity of land snails at limestone hills in Peninsular Malaysia.

A quarried limestone hill in Kinta Valley, Perak, Malaysia. Credit: Junn Kitt Foon. License: CC-BY 4.0

Formed from reefs beneath ancient seas, limestone hills are regarded as “arks of biodiversity” because they can harbour plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth. A recent study showed that at least 445 limestone hills can be found scattered across Peninsular Malaysia.

Research has also shown that limestone hills provide numerous benefits to humans, by storing groundwater, or providing habitat for cave bats that either pollinate commercially important trees like Durian, or reduce pests in rice fields.

To support the construction industry which plays a vital role in the socio-economic development of the country, however, certain limestone hills are being quarried to make cement. Continue reading

Project update 21, publication update 19: Project Pteropus delivers results!

Sheema completed her PhD in Ecology last November, when she successfully defended her thesis at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. Now comes the good part: sharing the results, data and information from her research! We’re happy to announce that 2 new papers from her thesis just got published this month.

Fruit bats are important ecosystem service providers, pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds over long distances. Instead of protecting these useful flying mammals however, humans are threatening their survival through hunting and persecution.

Finding out what flying foxes eat is a first step towards discovering what flowers they pollinate and what seeds they disperse. This will help strengthen the cause to promote their protection. Project Pteropus started investigating this question in 2015, and now, the results of the analysis are finally out! We’ve made a first start towards answering the question of ‘What do the Tioman Island flying foxes eat?’

Identifying flying fox food plants by collecting and analysing droppings

PeerJ image Continue reading

Publication update 18: Bats in the Anthropocene

Chapter 13

If you’d like to learn more about bats, don’t miss out on downloading this brand new, open-access book on bat conservation edited by Tigga Kingston and Christian Voigt‘Bats in the Anthropocene: conservation of bats in a changing world’. Thanks to partial funding from SEABCRU, this online book is completely free to download, either in whole or as separate chapters. Continue reading

Publication update 17: Kenyirus sheema – a new land snail species from an old rainforest

LOW_RES-pic_for_article
Holotype of the new species Kenyirus sheema. Foon, Tan and Clements, 2015.

The Belum-Temengor Rainforest Complex (BTFC) in the State of Perak covers a cross section of Peninsular Malaysia’s terrestrial ecosystems from lowland rainforests at the foothills to tropical montane cloud forests in the highlands. This 300 sq km of wilderness is home to healthy populations of mammalian megafauna including the critically endangered Malayan Tiger, Panthera tigris jacksoni. In fact, the remarkable state of ecosystem preservation in BTFC makes it one of the most critical regions in Peninsular Malaysia for the conservation of almost every group of rainforest flora and fauna. However, it was a cherry-sized snail that particularly caught the attention of Reuben, during one of his routine mammal surveys in BTFC one morning in February 2009. Continue reading

Publication update 16: Do conservation scientists need to work harder to get their research noticed?

Hey folks, remember this publication update?

Does Social Media 'Like' Conservation?

In that article, we talked about how we shared a facebook post that featured a turtle being abused, reached around 63,000 people within a few hours of its posting. The moral of the story was that sensational news such as those on animal abuse appeared to garner more attention from the public than news on conservation issues.

That article was led by one of Rimba’s researchers, Lahiru Wijedasa. But that wasn’t the last word…

Continue reading

Publication update 15: The bear and the pangolin

sunbear pangolin
© Reuben Clements / Rimba

Hi folks, we have another publication update to share. A little late, this interesting observation was originally shared in the IUCN/SSC Bear Specialist Group‘s spring newsletter by Laurie and Sheema. It has something to do with the photo above…can you spot the pangolin in the shot??

While going through Reuben’s camera trap photos for the database, Sheema first noticed this particular bear exhibiting some strange behaviour over several consecutive shots. Things got really interesting when she realised what it had in its mouth… Continue reading