Conservation Responses

Not surprisingly, conservation responses to threats facing cave-dwelling bats are strongly linked—though by no means confined—to the growth of organizations across the world dedicated to conserving all bat species. This subject was reviewed by Racey (2013) who suggests that while bat conservation has made much progress in Europe and North America and is growing in strength in Central and South America and parts of Asia and Australasia, half of the world remains a “conservation void” so far as bats are concerned. This conservation void includes most of Africa, all of the Middle East, much of the Russian Federation and all of the former Russian republics, together with most of Asia, including China, Mongolia and Tibet.

National and International Initiatives for the Protection of Cave Bats

The Council of Europe reviewed underground habitats and proposed selection criteria for their protection (Jubertie 1992). This was followed by IUCN's Guidelines for Cave and Karst Protection prepared by the World Commission on Protected Areas Working Group (Watson et al. 1997), although it was realized at the time by one of the authors that more detailed treatment of biodiversity issues was required (Hamilton-Smith 2001). This was begun, but never completed. Among the many broader cave-related publications that have appeared (e.g. Gunn 2003; White and Culver 2012), the treatment of Vermeulen and Whitten (1999) for East Asia is notable in explicitly addressing the threat to cave biodiversity from tourism and exploitation of limestone for industrial purposes by providing options for impact assessment, site selection, mitigation and national management of karst areas.

National academic societies have also produced guidelines for the protection of bat roosts, particularly those in caves (e.g. Sheffield et al. 1992) and among the bat conservation NGOs, the UK's Bat Conservation Trust was among the first to produce a conservation code for cave visitors (Hutson et al. 1988). Since then, a variety of organizations have produced materials to raise public awareness of bats at karst caves around the world. In Madagascar for instance, Madagasikara Voakajy have produced guidelines in three languages (Malagasy, English and French) for tourists visiting caves in the Bemaraha karst, with clear instructions about minimizing disturbance to bats. The international speleological community has also, in general, been sensitive to the potential effects of their activities on bats and other cave fauna and codes of ethics have been published by national caving societies in several regions. An important advance within the caving community has also been the replacement of carbide lamps, the combustion products of which are toxic, with electric torches.

The development of a network of protected areas including many sites of outstanding importance for cave-dwelling bats across the European Union (known as Natura 2000) has been viewed as an important step change in European bat conservation, although its effectiveness in protecting the foraging habitats of cave bats in the region has been questioned (Lison et al. 2013). Allied to this, the Advisory Committee of Eurobats (an intergovernmental agreement for the protection of European populations of bats) has a working group on underground sites, in addition to other groups dealing with related subjects such as surveillance and monitoring and wind farms. These have resulted in well illustrated guidelines for the protection and management of subterranean sites and lists of important sites across Europe, which are freely available from the Eurobats website (Mitchell-Jones et al. 2007).

The United States Endangered Species Act provides strong protection for several cave-dwelling species, and individual states maintain their own lists of endangered and threatened species and species of special conservation concern, as do agencies such as the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Alongside four sub-national bat groups which address bat conservation issues in the western, mid-western, northeast and southeast states respectively, Bat Conservation International has mounted successful programs for bat conservation in American caves and mines, in addition to initiatives aimed at building capacity and protecting cave bats in many other countries such as the Philippines (Racey 2013).

In Central America, concerns about the plight of predominantly or wholly cavedwelling species such as T. brasiliensis, L. curasoae and Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) that migrate between Mexico and the southern United States led to the establishment in 1994 of the Program for the Conservation of Mexican Bats (PCMM: Programma para la Conservacion de los Murcielagos de Mexico). In 2007, this in turn led to the launch of the Latin American Network for Bat Conservation (RELCOM: Red Latinoamericana para la conservacion de los Murcielagos), an alliance of organizations and individuals in 22 countries (including the Caribbean) concerned with bat conservation. In South and Southeast Asia, the respective regional equivalents are Chiropteran Conservation Information Network for South Asia (CCINSA) and Southeast Asian Bat Conservation Research Unit (SEABCRU), whereas in Africa, a new network Bat Conservation Africa was formed by bat conservationists in 2013 which encompasses 19 African countries and the West Indian Ocean islands (Kingston et al. 2016).

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >