Lead Researcher: Sheema
Collaborators: Dr. Gan Han Ming
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.
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 PhD 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.
Fieldwork for this project has wrapped up for the year 2016, and the data are currently being analysed and written up as Sheema spends the second half of the year concluding her PhD in Paris. We hope to secure further funding to continue the work and extend the project further into the long term, but the future status is currently unknown. Stay tuned for further updates!