Livingstone’s Flying Fox, Pteropus livingstonii

Livingstone’s flying fox (Pteropus livingstonii), also known as the Comoro flying fox, is a species of megabat that can only be found in the Comoros Islands in the western portion of the Indian Ocean. It prefers a habitat within montane forests at elevations between 980 and 3,150 feet.

Livingstone’s flying fox is the largest species of bat in its range, reaching an average body length of twelve inches, a wingspan of nearly five feet, and a weight of up to twenty-two ounces. Its fur is typically black in color, with bits of gold or tawny fur occurring on the belly, hindquarters, and sides. Some individuals hold golden fur along their back or shoulders, while others have no gold fur at all. The face, wings, legs, and ears are black in color and have no fur. Its coloring, size, and reddish orange eyes can distinguish the species from other bats.

Livingstone’s flying fox prefers to roost in tall trees or along slopes and is typically found near a water source. Colonies roosting in trees usually hold about 160 individuals in up to eight trees. Each colony holds a dominate male and up to eight females capable of breeding, and males will mark territories using scent glands found on the shoulders and neck. Pregnant females will travel to a maternity roost where they will give birth to one pup each, typically in the month of September. Pups are born with their eyes open and with fur, gripping to their mothers with their strong toes. The pups are able to forage for food on their own at up to five months of age and males will leave their mothers at about six months of age to establish territories.

Unlike other bat species, Livingstone’s flying fox is active during the nighttime and daytime hours, although most colonies have been found to prefer foraging between ten PM and two AM. It has been seen using hot thermals during the daytime to reach desirable areas with abundant food, and then resting in the trees until dusk. It will seek food in the upper canopy, consuming nectar, leaves, pollen, and seeds, although it is known to feed on moths in captivity. It is thought that the diet of this species makes it an important seed disperser and keystone species within its range.

Livingstone’s flying fox is threatened by habitat loss due to deforestation, hunting, and natural weather patterns. Studies in 2003 estimated that the total population of this species was about 1,200 bats, and it is thought that this number could decrease if proper conservation efforts are not taken. Conservation efforts taken in the past include the IUCN drafted plan known as Action Comoros. The plan includes educating communities and researching the species through environmental education programs or EEPs, which educate and train locals to help save it. In 1992, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust developed a captive breeding program to help bolster the population number of this bat. Livingstone’s flying fox is currently listed on Appendix I on CITES and appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Endangered.â€

Image Caption: Livingstone’s Fruit Bat Pteropus livingstonii in Bristol Zoo, Bristol, England. Credit: Adrian Pingstone/Wikipedia