March 31, 2017 by Glenys Young
Three decades after being recognized as a group in need of conservation efforts, large fruit-eating bats still face an increasingly uncertain future on tropical islands as populations dwindle and threats close in, according to a Texas Tech University faculty member's new Perspectives article in Science magazine.
Through the article, "Can we protect island flying foxes?" Tigga Kingston, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and her co-authors – Christian E. Vincenot from Kyoto University and F. B. Vincent Florens from University of Mauritius – hope to promote conservation action and research on the bats to halt further declines.
"Island flying foxes were recognized as a group of conservation concern more than 30 years ago when intense hunting and commercial trading of species on Pacific islands precipitated the extinction of at least one species, the endemic Guam flying fox, and led to dramatic declines in others," Kingston said. "Thirty years later, flying fox populations on islands are still declining because of hunting and habitat loss, and new issues, notably conflict between bats and fruit growers over crops, have arisen."
According to the article, this conflict has led the government of one island nation, Mauritius, to implement mass killings of one species, Pteropus niger. The government's figures suggest at least 45 percent of the overall population was eliminated during the events. Kingston and her co-authors note that losses likely top 50 percent due to illegal killings and incidental mortality of bat pups.