Project update 22: Project Pteropus in BATS Magazine

Project Pteropus has been featured as the cover story in the fall issue of Bat Conservation International‘s BATS Magazine! Featuring gorgeous flying fox photos contributed by talented wildlife photographer Sanjitpaal Singh, it tells the story of how Sheema started her fruit bat research and conservation initiative for Peninsular Malaysia, and also gives an overview of our current, ongoing work.

Click on the image below to get acquainted with the history of Project Pteropus, and to also catch up on what we’ve been busy with! Plus, stay tuned and follow our social media channels to find out how we’ll be honouring Bat Week, coming up soon!!

We are super grateful to Jon Flanders, Lynn Davies, and Kristen Pope for this coverage, and also to BCI for funding Phase 1 of Project Pteropus.

Publication update 21: Project Pteropus press release: Durian Industry May Suffer Without Endangered Fruit Bats

Flying foxes pollinate regionally important fruit crop

Kuala Lumpur, 19 September 2017 – Scientists here have discovered that Southeast Asia’s highly popular durian tree is pollinated by locally endangered fruit bats known as flying foxes.

By putting camera traps in durian trees on Tioman Island, Malaysia, researchers collected video evidence showing the island flying fox (Pteropus hypomelanus) pollinating durian flowers, leading to the production of healthy durian fruit. The study has just been published in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

Fig.3
Still shots from a video recording of a flying fox feeding on durian flower nectar.

The spiky tropical durian fruit is highly prized throughout its native region. A ubiquitous icon of Southeast Asian culture, it is also a lucrative industry, generating millions of US dollars in local and international trade. And these economic profits owe a huge debt to bats.

Commonly referred to as flying foxes, large fruit bats of the genus Pteropus are severely threatened by hunting and deforestation. They are often sold and eaten as exotic meat due to an unsubstantiated belief that consuming them can help cure asthma and other respiratory problems.

On top of this, they are also persecuted and killed as agricultural pests, as some people claim that the bats cause damage and economic loss by feeding on cultivated fruits. Consequently, these factors have led to severe declines in flying fox populations worldwide.

Yet these bats actually play very important roles as seed dispersers and pollinators in rainforests, especially on islands. The disappearance of flying foxes could thus have disastrous repercussions for tropical ecosystems. Now, this international team of researchers from Malaysia, France, India, and Thailand, in collaboration with Tree Climbers Malaysia, has found that Southeast Asia’s durian supply could be affected too. Continue reading

Project update 21, publication update 19: Project Pteropus delivers results!

Sheema completed her PhD in Ecology last November, when she successfully defended her thesis at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. Now comes the good part: sharing the results, data and information from her research! We’re happy to announce that 2 new papers from her thesis just got published this month.

Fruit bats are important ecosystem service providers, pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds over long distances. Instead of protecting these useful flying mammals however, humans are threatening their survival through hunting and persecution.

Finding out what flying foxes eat is a first step towards discovering what flowers they pollinate and what seeds they disperse. This will help strengthen the cause to promote their protection. Project Pteropus started investigating this question in 2015, and now, the results of the analysis are finally out! We’ve made a first start towards answering the question of ‘What do the Tioman Island flying foxes eat?’

Identifying flying fox food plants by collecting and analysing droppings

PeerJ image Continue reading