Lead Researcher: Sheema
Core team member: Mary-Ruth
Collaborators: Junn Kitt, Liew (Project Limestone), Kelvin Peh (University of Southampton), Mohd. Azlan Jayasilan (UNIMAS), Giam Xingli (University of Tennessee), Sara Bumrungsri (Prince of Songkla University), Lindsay Gasik (Year of the Durian), SEABCRU, PERHILITAN
Project Pteropus is the first and only project in the country focused on flying fox (giant 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 hypomelanus & P. vampyrus) are on the brink of extirpation, yet 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. Our long-term approach is to investigate, understand, document, and highlight bat ecosystem services such as durian (Durio zibethinus) pollination – but also to understand and address situations of conflict between fruit bats and humans, as a two-pronged strategy to promote conservation of 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 hope to start engaging fruit farmers constructively as equal partners to explore collaborative solutions. 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 in Southeast Asia 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.
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.
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