The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Fund has awarded Bat Conservation International $8,000 in support of Saving Cave Bats in Cambodia, Laos, & Vietnam: Investing in the Bat Champions of Tomorrow.
This collaborative project will be led by SEABCRU’s Dr. Neil Furey, Fauna & Flora International (Cambodia) and Cambodian colleagues, and in collaboration with Dr. Tigga Kingston, Chair of Southeast Asian Bat Conservation & Research Unit (SEABCRU), Texas Tech University.
Our goals include:
1. Launching a status assessment of 33 caves for cave bats in southern Cambodia
2. Engaging local communities and authorities living near cave roosts in Cambodia through educational and capacity-building activities
3. Establishing national cave bat database in Cambodia
4. Expanding region-wide research and conservation capacity beyond Cambodia (primarily in Laos and Vietnam)
Project Background and Details: The significance of SE Asian caves for sustaining bat diversity and the multitude of threats they face are widely recognized. Threats range from total destruction of roost sites due to quarrying activities, disturbance from show cave development and guano harvesting, through to direct hunting of colonial species such as wrinkle-lipped bats. These threats pose a major conservation concern in Cambodia, where karst areas are experiencing increasing forest degradation, tourism development, and limestone quarrying.
Though the extent of Cambodian karst is not accurately known, the largest outcrops occur in the western Battambang and southern Kampot and Kep provinces. Over 100 caves are registered from these areas, yet very few have been surveyed for bats to date and most of these assessments took place more than 10 years ago. While the limited data available indicates that karst areas in the Kampot and Kep provinces support major colonies of wrinkle-lipped bats, their current status is unknown. As hunting of bats for food is common in Cambodia and few if any caves are protected for biodiversity, the need for assessments to determine the status and management imperatives of key sites for cave-dwelling bats is crucial.
Key sites for cave bat conservation will be identified on the basis of species richness, population size, presence of IUCN red-listed and/or rarely-recorded species, levels of disturbance and actual and potential conservation threats. Special note will be taken of any new or innovative sustainable cave management and guano harvesting approaches encountered, and the fieldwork will facilitate the development of protocols for surveying cave bat diversity in Cambodia. Site management authorities will be trained in bat conservation and monitoring techniques through their involvement in the field research. To raise local awareness, cave profiles (including management recommendations) will be translated into the Khmer language and provided to local authorities and residents alongside introductory information on the biological, ecological, and economic importance of bats.
Data from the field research will be collated in the form of a national cave database at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) plus a synthesis report on the status of cave bats in southern Cambodia (including site-specific recommendations for conservation and management).