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Philippine Bats Conservation Programme

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Fruit batsSeveral species of bats are threatened in the Philippines. The Philippine Bats Conservation Programme, initiated in 1991 with funding from Lubee Foundation/Silliman University, has been developing projects for the conservation of these creatures of the night and their habitats. Particular focus has been placed on species like the Philippine Bare-backed Fruit Bat (Dobsonia chapmani) (IUCN ‘Critically Endangered’), Golden-crowned Flying Fox (Acerodon jubatus) (IUCN ‘Critically endangered) and the Philippine Tube-nosed Fruit Bat (Nyctimene rabori) (IUCN ‘Endangered’). Recent bat surveys have also revealed possible new species of insect bats, warranting further research focus.

Project Dobsonia

The survival of the Philippine Bare-backed Fruit Bat (Dobsonia chapmani) is severely threatened by the destruction and degradation of forests as well as hunting on Cebu and Negros Islands, where this species is endemic. Prior to 2001, it was thought to be extinct, but its rediscovery brought to attention the urgent conservation actions that had to be taken. The project also aims to support cave and cave bat conservation initiatives in Cebu and Negros.

The rediscovery occurred in Carmen and Catmon municipalities on Cebu Island, following which PBCFI swiftly initiated the Philippine Bare-backed Fruit Bat protection project. Information campaigns and lectures were conducted to raise conservation awareness among Local Governments, and to lobby for the protection of limestone caves supporting remaining populations of this species. A government-organized group of environmental protection coordinators now conducts regular patrols to deter destructive activities, especially bat hunting. Reforestation efforts are also underway. The local government of the Carmen municipality has even adopted this bat as its flagship species, and has declared the caves where they occur as “Naked-backed Fruit Bat Sanctuaries”. Project Dobsonia now aims to conduct intensive field surveys to locate existing populations.

Bat Conservation Education at Mambukal Resort

Mambukal Resort, known as a gateway to Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park on Negros Island, is a popular tourist destination. Its large populations of flying foxes (Golden-crowned Flying Fox Acerodon jubatus, Large Flying Fox Pteropus vampyrus and Common Island Flying Foxes Pteropus hypomelanus) are the stars of the resort. Poor ecotourism practices and management were however threatening their survival, especially for the less tolerant and critically endangered Golden-crowned Flying Fox.

PBCFI in partnership with NFEFI, conducted a seminar and provided training for Mambukal’s tour guides to educate them about the conservation status and importance of flying foxes, identification, monitoring and rescue techniques, and ecotourism best practices. This activity also fostered a long-term partnership, allowing for continued monitoring and development of ecotourism. Mambukal Resort is now a showcase site for flying fox conservation in the Philippines.

Bat Encounter

An activity jointly implemented by PBCFI and NFEFI, Bat Encounter aims to provide students and teachers with training in field research techniques. Participating institutions include University of St. La Salle-Bacolod, University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos and West Negros University. The activity provided Biology students with the capacity to conduct thesis research.

Bat Surveys

Biodiversity surveys in 2012 conducted in southwestern Negros confirmed the presence of the endangered Philippine Tube-nosed Fruit Bat (Nyctimene rabori), a species restricted to the islands of Panay and Negros. This record flags the importance of forest conservation in the area.

In Calamianes, surveys conducted in 2010 recorded the poorly known Palawan Flying Fox (Acerodon leucotis) and possible new species of insect bats. Further studies on these species remain on the agenda of the Philippine Bats Conservation Programme.

South East Asia Bat Conference Research Unit (SEABCRU)

PBCFI participated in SEABCRU 2012 held in Hat Yai, Thailand, to discuss issues on bat conservation and research.