Project Pteropus

Lead Researcher: Sheema

Project description: Fruit bats such as flying foxes (Pteropus spp.) are under severe threat in Peninsular Malaysia due to hunting (for food and medicine) and extermination (as agricultural pests). They are often viewed negatively, and are not charismatic flagship species, so there is little motivation to conserve them. Yet the decline of flying fox populations could have serious implications for Malaysia’s forest ecosystems, as well as people’s livelihoods and wellbeing – especially on tropical islands. This is particularly important as flying foxes still do not have total legal protection in Peninsular Malaysia. See here for further information on these issues and how Rimba has been involved.

Pteropus hypomelanus
Pteropus hypomelanus

Ecologists know that fruit bats provide important ecosystem services through seed dispersal and pollination. However, how do these processes happen? What are the specific benefits to people? How can we communicate to policymakers and local communities that this is why we should conserve flying foxes? Can fruit bats and humans coexist in peace? This project aims to answer some of these questions and provide baseline data to support the conservation of flying foxes and other fruit bats in Peninsular Malaysia. It employs a strong applied conservation approach, utilising both ecological and social studies.

The first phase of this project has wrapped up now, as Sheema concluded her PhD in Paris in November 2016. We hope to secure further funding to continue the work and extend the project further into the long term, but at the moment the project is on hiatus while Sheema takes a sabbatical. Stay tuned for further updates!