Monday, 23 November 2015

Conservationists urge Mauritius to halt cull of threatened fruit bat

A government cull of tens of thousands of bats has no scientific basis and is putting the survival of the species at risk, coalition says

Tuesday 17 November 2015 12.03 GMTLast modified on Thursday 19 November 201514.00 GMT

Conservationists are calling for an end to a government cull of tens of thousands of fruit bats in Mauritius that they say is putting the survival of the threatened species at risk.

Authorities began shooting 18,000 Mauritius fruit bats (Pteropus niger) on 7 November, despite protests and even though the species is protected on the Indian Ocean island and listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, the world’s conservation union.

The government claims the cull is necessary because the number of bats hassoared to almost 100,000 and is causing significant economic damage to the country’s lucrative fruit crops of banana, pineapple, lychee and mango.

But a coalition of conservation groups is calling for an immediate halt to the cull of the bats - also known as flying foxes - and says there is no scientific evidence to justify it.

“This catastrophic cull of the Mauritius fruit bat is indefensible and must end now,” said Frederick Kumah, WWF African regional director. “The people of Mauritius do not support this cull and nor do the world’s scientists and conservationists. There is no acceptable reason to continue with this destruction.”

The cull plans to kill 20% of the population by the end of the month, but the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation estimates the population is closer to 50,000, meaning the cull could wipe out almost 40% of the species. 

The NGOs, which include the African Conservation Centre, African Wildlife Foundation, Birdlife International, Conservation International and WWF, say the government has double-counted the number of bats.

Announcing the cull last month, environment minister, Jayeshwur Raj Dayal, said the bat was no longer an endangered species and “the aim is about getting the balance right so that we can continue to have a sustainable bat population but also agricultural production”. Local fruits are a source of income for many people, and the impact of bats was “quite severe”, he said.

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