Education and Awareness Raising

One of the first steps toward conservation management of hunted bats is educating local communities. Bats are important to human communities in a number of ways, particularly for the valuable ecosystem services they provide, but local communities are often unaware of these. Because hunting, like other human-caused stressors, is tied directly to population declines in bats, it is important that human communities are aware of the trade-offs between temporary gains from bat exploitation and the risk of losing bats entirely from the region. Following a knowledge/ attitude/behavior approach to understanding responsible environmental behavior (Hines et al. 1987), communities may come to appreciate bats and support bat conservation only after understanding their role in the environment (see Kingston 2016).

Knowledge

People are generally aware of bats present near their local communities. Bats are not cryptic animals, especially fruit bats that aggregate in large numbers by day using conspicuous roosting sites, and they often forage at night in fruiting and flowering trees on farms and in residential areas. Hence, local people's knowledge of bats often surpasses that of outside biologists, especially with respect to bat roosting locations, foraging habits, seasonal behaviors, and even threats (e.g. local community members' awareness of subtle seasonal changes in fruit bat diet of P. mariannus, Mildenstein and Mills 2013). It is, therefore, surprising how little is known about bat conservation status in these same areas. Population size and growth trends tend to be unknown by biologists and managers, much less by the non-scientific members of the local community. So, even though local people are aware of the disturbance they may be causing, they often have no idea of the severity of population-level consequences. Because bats appear to be numerous, popular belief is that humans can have only minimal impact on their populations. For example, the greater short-nosed fruit bat (Cynopterus sphinx) is believed by experts to be threatened by hunting in parts of its range, but in other parts, <1 % of local people surveyed believe the species could be threatened by their hunting (Johnson et al. 2003). Similarly, throughout the Philippines, bats are eaten regularly with little understanding of the impacts that harvest is causing. Hunters who join biologists on bat population counts commonly overestimate the population size by three orders of magnitude prior to the count and then are shocked when the counted population is in the hundreds or low thousands (Mildenstein et al. 2007; Mildenstein 2012).

Education and awareness programs. One of the most hunted bats in subSaharan Africa, E. helvum is the focus of members of the Eidolon Monitoring Network (EMN) who conduct education activities in areas near bat colonies (J. Fahr, pers. comm.). In Kenya and Nigeria, scientists and volunteers of the EMN carry out education programs in schools (Fig. 12.3) and among the general public (Tanshi et al. 2013). Education on islands around Africa has proven effective in drawing local attention to bat protection. Examples include the recovery program

Fig. 12.3 Conservation education and bat population monitoring by volunteers in Eidolon Monitoring Network in Benin City, Nigeria, school students engage in conservation outreach event, a volunteers prepare conservation outreach materials, b volunteers counting straw-coloured fruit bats Eidolon helvum at King square, Ring Road, Benin City, c undergraduate student volunteers Eidolon Population Monitoring team from University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria

for the P. voeltzkowi in Pemba Tanzania, for P. rufus in Madagascar, P. rodricensis in Rodrigues and the Comoro flying fox (Pteropus livingstonii) in the Comoros (Wilson and Graham 1992; Trewhella et al. 2005; O'Connor et al. 2006; Robinson et al. 2010; H. Doulton, pers. comm.).

Behavior—Local Commitment to Conservation of Bats and Bat Habitat

Finally, once communities that value bats become aware of the threats bats face, the may start to change their behaviors to support bat conservation (but see Kingston 2016). A multi-faceted education and awareness program in the Comoros Islands is a good example of how outreach can lead to changes in attitude and behavior that support conservation. Local citizens became involved in monitoring bat populations and directing conservation management (Trewhella et al. 2005).

Capacity Building of Local Rangers/PA Managers

Many programs include training and capacity building in their bat conservation efforts. Bat Count—Philippines held a national workshop in 2004 to train protected area managers in bat identification and monitoring techniques (Mildenstein et al. 2007; Mildenstein 2011). The project, Filipinos for Flying Foxes, is now working with local communities to establish sustainable management practices for bats (SOS 2012). The project trains local rangers and management staff to monitor their bat populations and encourages them to self-regulate their hunting pressure. In Dalaguete, Cebu, rangers have continued forest protection despite the inconsistencies in availability of their modest stipends provided by the local government (SOS 2012). In Divilacan, Northern Sierra Madre, Luzon, rangers receiving bat conservation training have elevated bat roost protection to the top priority in their regular monitoring activities (SOS 2012).

 
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >