Date:June 29, 2013

Flying Foxes

Based on current deforestation rates, as many as 24% of Southeast Asia’s fruit bat (Pteropodidae) species are predicted to become globally extinct by the end of this century. Within the Pteropodidae, the flying foxes [members of the genera Pteropus (25 species) or Acerodon (5 species)] are of particular concern. These large species roost in trees in aggregations of several thousand individuals and are under intense hunting pressure for food and traditional medicine in many parts of Southeast Asia.

Research Need and Justification: Efforts to conserve the region’s flying foxes, to quantify the ecosystem services they provide, and to model and understand pathogen cycles that can precipitate spillover events are hampered by the lack of regional data on flying fox distributions and populations, and of quantified evaluations of the impact of hunting. Explicit population and hunting data are only available for a few localities and regional cooperation is essential, as several species migrate trans-nationally. This not only complicates population assessments but also means that stressors must be addressed across migration routes.

Global Actions: (1) Collate information on the current populations and distributions of flying fox species; (2) Identify conservation priorities across the region; (3) Identify information gaps; (4) Establish scientifically-rigorous monitoring protocols that focus on population abundance, hunting impacts and habitat characteristics; (5) Identify human-flying fox interactions, (e.g. positive: ecosystem services, seed dispersal, pollination; negative: crop raiding, disease hosts).

Needs Assessment: (1) Collate and review population data and link to centralized database; (2) Research and workshops to train researchers in standardized bat count methods and to finalize design of standardized survey forms for population, habitat and bushmeat assessments; (3) Public forums/awareness session in local communities.

Projected Outputs: (1) Identification of species/regions/roosts most in need of protection with (2) population data to support advocacy for protection/hunting limits; (3) provision of mechanisms (long-term monitoring) to assess the success of conservation intervention (4) distribution and population data for input into virus surveillance and epidemiological models.