Flying foxes are of ecological importance to Old World plants that depend on them for pollination and seed dispersal; however they are globally threatened by habitat loss and hunting. Lyle’s flying fox is of particular interest because it is a host for the Nipah virus, it frequently lives in areas densely inhabited by humans, and has been labeled as Vulnerable by the IUCN. Very little is known about this species’ foraging ecology and diet though the current study assumed that it is a central-place forager, which returns to a day roost after foraging. Using GPS telemetry to track activity patterns and resource use of bats roosting in Wat Luang temple in Chonburi Province, the researchers showed that individuals use agricultural landscapes within a 20-km radius of their day roost. Bats foraged on many different crops and native plants and the population is able to persist in an environment dominated by human activities. Bats consistently returned to foraging sites that had predictable food resources during a given time. Lyle’s flying fox visited a broad variety of plants but most of them were commercial fruits (42%) with mangoes, cashew, and tamarind being most commonly visited, though native fig species were also common in the diet. The stable food supply offered by agricultural crops may have fostered roost fidelity in the observed population of flying foxes. However, remnants of mangrove forests were also heavily used by individuals despite such sites being rare. Due to the bats using cash crops as a common food source these bats are considered pests by farmers and frequently hunted for bushmeat and traditional medicine. The close contact of bats to humans can result in population reductions through hunting that may be unsustainable but also facilitates transmission of the Nipah virus from the bats to humans. Understanding the foraging ecology of Lyle’s flying fox can help formulate better plans for managing the species’ population, preserving the ecological benefits they provide, and perhaps reduce disease transmission risk. Promotion of native vegetation particularly mangrove forests may help reduce conflict between bats and humans.
Original Citation: Natalie Weber, Prateep Duengkae, Jakob Fahr, Dina K. N. Dechmann, Patcharakiti Phengsakul, Wachirapon Khumbucha, Boripat Siriaroonrat, Supaporn Wacharapluesadee, Pattarapol Maneeorn, Martin Wikelski, and Scott Newman. 2015. High resolution GPS tracking of Lyle’s Flying Fox between temples and orchards in Central Thailand. Journal of Wildlife Management, DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.904.