August 27, 2009
World’s largest bats might become extinct
The Wildlife Trust says the world's largest species of fruit bat, Pteropus vampyrus, could become extinct in Peninsular Malaysia at the current hunting rate.
Jonathan Epstein, associate vice president of the U.S.-headquartered organization, said approximately 22,000 fruit bats, also called flying foxes, are legally hunted annually in Peninsular Malaysia, also known as West Malaysia, in addition to those illegally hunted. That, he said, is a level of hunting that's unsustainable based on estimates of the number of bats in the country.
Epstein, a veterinary epidemiologist, and colleagues surveyed 33 roost sites across Peninsular Malaysia and repeatedly counted the numbers of bats at eight sites between 2003 and 2007. They compared that data along with the number of hunting licenses issued in Malaysia to see whether the number of bats hunted each year was sustainable. They also used satellite transmitters attached to bats to see how far the species migrated and found they travel from Malaysia to Indonesia and Thailand.
Our models suggest that hunting activity over the period between 2002 and 2005 in Peninsular Malaysia is not sustainable, and that local populations of Pteropus vampyrus are vulnerable to extinction, Epstein said, noting the research is the first of its kind on flying foxes in Asia.
Our study illustrates that bats, like other migratory species, require comprehensive protection by regional management plans across their range, Epstein said.
The research appears in the Journal of Applied Ecology.