Kuala Lumpur, 6 January 2020 – The non-profit conservation research group Rimba has just produced a ‘Conservation Roadmap for Flying Foxes Pteropus spp. in Peninsular Malaysia’, in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (PERHILITAN).
Rimba’s Project Pteropus has been working on flying fox conservation in collaboration with PERHILITAN since 2012. Now, this collaboration has helped to produce a Conservation Roadmap which serves as a guidance document for flying fox conservation in Peninsular Malaysia. The document provides preliminary guidelines on the necessary research and conservation actions that are needed to protect Peninsular Malaysia’s highly threatened flying fox populations.
According to PERHILITAN Director-General YBhg. Dato’ Abdul Kadir bin Abu Hashim: “This Conservation Roadmap was developed as an important guide to help Malaysia tackle the decline in populations of our flying foxes or ‘keluang’ in Malay, which are now in an alarming state. Although not as popular as our more charismatic tigers and elephants, these majestic fruit bats are also a national treasure, and play such a crucial role in our ecosystems and durian agriculture. They are a rare sight now, and we must do what we can to protect them before it’s too late.”
Dr. Sheema Abdul Aziz, Principal Investigator of Project Pteropus, explains: “Flying foxes (giant fruit bats) are one of the most threatened groups of bats in the world, recognised as locally Endangered in Peninsular Malaysia, and protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010. They play a critical dual role in forest maintenance and regeneration as pollinators and seed dispersers, and are particularly important for pollinating durian trees.”
However, their numbers have declined sharply due to hunting and habitat loss, as their meat has been sought after as a delicacy and for medicinal purposes. Fruit farmers also view them as pests that need to be eradicated, and their negative reputation is not helped by being constantly associated solely with disease. Their decline has ecological implications for the country’s numerous ecosystems at a wider landscape level, and could even affect the national durian industry.
This Conservation Roadmap is the output of a regional project spearheaded by the Southeast Asian Bat Conservation Research Unit (SEABCRU) and funded by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), titled: “Identifying and addressing factors contributing to flying fox trafficking in Southeast Asia”. This regional project aims to provide an understanding of the drivers and actors behind hunting and trafficking of flying foxes (Pteropus spp.) in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, in order to address the threats to flying foxes caused by unsustainable use.
Apart from Rimba and PERHILITAN, this regional project involves a consortium of local academic institutions comprising: Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS).
The Flying Fox Conservation Roadmap is now available online and can be freely downloaded at: http://bit.ly/flyingfoxconservationroadmap .
UPDATE 20 January 2020: Sheema talks flying fox conservation on BFM 89.9