Project Pteropus

Lead Researcher: Sheema

Core team members: Mary-Ruth

Collaborators: Junn KittLiew (Project Limestone), Kelvin Peh (University of Southampton), Lindsay Gasik (Year of the Durian)

Pteropus hypomelanus
Pteropus hypomelanus
Old World fruit bats (Pteropodidae) such as flying foxes (Pteropus spp., Acerodon spp.) are important ecosystem service providers, pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds over long distances. However, instead of protecting these incredible flying mammals, humans are threatening their survival through hunting and persecution (see here for further information on these issues and how Rimba has been involved).

Project Pteropus was set up to address this gap in research and conservation. Understanding bat ecosystem services and conflict situations with humans is a crucial step towards developing effective conservation solutions. There is a particularly urgent need for this in Malaysia, where the country’s two flying fox species are on the brink of extirpation, yet are still classified as low conservation priorities on the IUCN Red List. This underscores the importance of localised conservation action to address country-specific flying fox declines. Therefore our long-term goal is to investigate, understand, document, and highlight bat ecosystem services such as durian (Durio zibethinus) pollination in order to promote conservation of bats and their habitats – but also to understand and try to address situations of conflict between bats and humans.

Phase 2 of Project Pteropus is a crossover with Project Limestone. We’ll be traversing the length and breadth of Peninsular Malaysia looking for Pteropus roosts and Eonycteris spelaea caves, and also talking to local people and orchard owners. This will allow us to assess the status of these pollinating fruit bats across the landscape, understand local people’s experiences and perceptions of fruit bats, and also identify potential sites for future studies on durian pollination and farmer-bat conflict. We hope to start engaging fruit farmers constructively as equal partners to explore collaborative solutions.

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 unnecessary fear of bats.