Control of Guns, Ammunition, and Other Bat Hunting Tools

Gun control is expected to have a positive effect on bats. In those countries where private gun ownership is not allowed, Pteropus often benefits. After a coup d'état in the Seychelles in 1977, all guns were confiscated and the numbers of Seychelles flying fox (Pteropus seychellensis) rose having previously been of some conservation concern (Racey 1979; Nicoll and Racey 1981). A similar story occurred in Palau following the death of the President by gunshot wounds (A. Brooke, pers. comm.).

In Myanmar, private gun ownership is a crime with reportedly severe penalties. Perhaps as a result, bat populations are large and easily approached. Bats are still harvested. For example, Pteropus are catapulted to provide medicine for asthma, Rousettus is often netted at cave entrances and sold in a market close to Mandalay, and insectivorous bats are also caught at cave entrances, fried and sold as beer snacks (U Khin Maung Gyi, pers. comm.). However, the harvest rates and overall disturbance to bats in Myanmar are thought to be much lower without guns.

Bat hunting may also be regulated through control of capturing equipment. For example, in Sarawak, as in many countries, it is illegal to sell or buy mist nets without a permit. This method of protecting bats, however, is only effective if hunters use commercially-manufactured nets. Many bat hunters avoid the high cost and regulation of mist nets and make their own nets or hook and line traps from monofilament line and other inexpensive fishing materials (e.g. in the Philippines, Mildenstein 2012).

Roost Site Protection

Bats are most vulnerable at their day roosting sites. So, it is not surprising that bat populations settle in areas where they are most protected. In Buddhist countries like Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, large fruit bats are commonly found in the gardens surrounding temples and monasteries (T. Mildenstein, unpublished data). The presence of monks and religious activities turn these areas into de facto sanctuaries for bats that would otherwise experience hunting pressure. In nearby non-Buddhist countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, the same fruit bat species colonize other “safe” spots such as privately protected lands and parks, especially in the forest interior, using topographical features that afford protection from people (e.g. along rivers, within mangrove islands, and on cliff edges, Mildenstein 2012). Active protection of roost sites alone (i.e. hunting still occurs away from the roost) has been shown to result in as much as ten times the number of roosting fruit bats for the same amount of forest habitat, and is especially important for sensitive species such as ecological specialists (Mildenstein 2012). Because of this, and the fact that roost sites are geographically predictable, conservation management by local government units and non-government organizations often target roost site protection.

Case Studies. Conservation efforts for the Pemba flying fox (Pteropus voeltzkowi) included roost protection through the setting up of community conservation clubs (Robinson et al. 2010). The recovery following these conservation programs led to the downgrading of the species' Red List threat assessment from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable.

Until recently, permanent nets were a regular method of hunting in the roost at Analalava, Madagascar by the people of Ambatondrazaka. The national NGO, Madagasikara Voakajy, initiated community-based protection of the fruit bat roost by incorporating payment for local rangers in a local peanut cooperative it funded.

Currently, hunting at the roost has ceased and the colony has increased from 200 to nearly 2000 individuals (Razafimanahaka 2013).

In Malaysia, the Wildlife Conservation Society has worked with local communities and the government in Sarawak to establish protected roosting areas of P. vampyrus. (M. Gumal, pers. comm. 2015). Four out of the five maternity roosting sites identified by Gumal (2004) are now protected for P. vampyrus, including: Loagan Bunut National Park, Sedilu National Park, Limbang Mangroves National Park, and Bruit National Park. A fifth maternity roost site at Bukit Sarang is in the preliminary proclamation stage for a National Park (M. Gumal pers. comm.).

In the Philippines, the Filipinos for Flying Foxes project is building on the successes of Bat Count-Philippines by developing bat roost site sanctuaries with local governments. The collaborating organizations (Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation and Mabuwaya Foundation) are establishing community-managed roost site sanctuaries across the distribution of the endemic and endangered A. jubatus and studying bat population size increases and roost site fidelity in these newly protected roost sites (SOS 2012).

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