Project Pteropus

Lead Researcher: Sheema

Core team members: Mary-Ruth, Joon Yee, Hana

Collaborators: Junn KittLiew (Project Limestone), Kelvin Peh (University of Southampton), Mohd. Azlan Jayasilan (UNIMAS), Giam Xingli (University of Tennessee)Sara Bumrungsri (Prince of Songkla University), PERHILITAN, Cintai Tioman (Reef Check)Lindsay Gasik (Year of the Durian), SEABCRU

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Island Flying Fox (Pteropus hypomelanus) on Tioman Island, Malaysia_COPYRIGHT SHEEMA AZIZ
Pteropus hypomelanus

Project Pteropus started in 2012 and is Malaysia’s only project focused on the ecology and conservation of fruit bats (Pteropodidae). Understanding bat ecosystem services and conflict situations with humans is a crucial step towards developing effective conservation solutions. Peninsular Malaysia’s two flying fox species (Pteropus hypomelanusP. vampyrus) are locally Endangered due to hunting and habitat loss, yet still classified as low conservation priorities on the IUCN Red List. The previous disproportionate focus on the disease aspects of flying foxes, without parallel efforts to understand their important roles and benefits to humans, has created negative perceptions of these bats whilst ignoring their conservation needs.

This underscores the importance of localised conservation action to address country-specific flying fox declines. Our long-term approach is to investigate, understand, document, and highlight bat ecosystem services such as durian (Durio zibethinus) pollination and eco-tourism – but also to understand and address situations of conflict between fruit bats and humans, as a two-pronged strategy to promote conservation of fruit bats and their habitats.

Phase 2 of Project Pteropus is a crossover with Project Limestone, as our scope has now expanded to include the cave nectar bat (Eonycteris spelaea). As such, fruit bat conservation will also benefit other cave-roosting bats and their karst habitats, and also the mangrove habitats of long-tongued nectar bats (Macroglossus spp.). We are engaging fruit farmers and island residents constructively as equal partners to explore collaborative solutions throughout Peninsular Malaysia. Our specific objectives:

(1) Help protect and manage critical refugia for flying foxes (Pteropus spp.) in Peninsular Malaysia.

(2) Work through partnerships with key durian farmers and other stakeholders in Peninsular Malaysia to conduct research on and highlight the critical pollination services provided by fruit bats to the durian industry.

(3) Initiate and support outreach efforts targeted at raising awareness of bat ecosystem services, and promoting positive attitudes towards plant-visiting bats, including mainstreaming bats in the public consciousness and eco-tourism sector through partnerships with other organisations.

We are also involved in a SEABCRU regional project funded by USFWS to address hunting of flying foxes.

Although we do not conduct research on virology or zoonoses, we welcome collaborations that employ a genuinely holistic, One Health approach to disease ecology, prioritising the welfare of wild animals and their habitats alongside human health, and incorporating a strong pro-conservation message that strives to avoid demonising or creating fear of bats. However, please note that we will not conduct any virus sampling work.

 

Current project donors:

640px-University_of_Southampton_Logo.svg Rufford logo the habitat foundation

 

Past project donors:

Rufford logo BCI logo logo-marinescape