Project Pteropus

Lead Researcher: Sheema

Core team member: Mary-Ruth

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 the first and only project in Malaysia focused on fruit bat ecology and conservation. 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). We are engaging fruit farmers and island residents constructively as equal partners to explore collaborative solutions throughout Peninsular Malaysia. Our specific objectives:

(1) Identify current roost sites of P. hypomelanus and P. vampyrus throughout Peninsular Malaysia, obtain baseline population data on P. hypomelanus and updated roost and baseline population data on P. vampyrus, in order to lobby for habitat protection.

(2) Identify key fruit orchards/plantations in Peninsular Malaysia where bat pollination and/or fruit raiding might occur, to be utilised for future economic valuation of bat pollination services, and human-bat conflict studies.

(3) Investigate cultural symbolism and use of bats and durians in the Asia-Pacific region, in order to develop more targeted outreach and engagement strategies.

(4) 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 unnecessary fear of bats.

Current project donors:

640px-University_of_Southampton_Logo.svg Rufford logo the habitat foundation

 

Past project donors:

Rufford logo BCI logo logo-marinescape

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