Species: Mauritian flying fox (Pteropus niger)
Status: Endangered (EN)
Interesting Fact: The Mauritian flying fox is named for its fox-like face, but is in fact a large species of fruit bat.
The only fruit bat to occur on the island of Mauritius, the Mauritian flying fox is a large bat with golden-brown fur. This species has a wingspan of about 80 centimetres, and the long, narrow shape of its wings allows it to travel long distances as it seeks out food in the forest canopy. The Mauritian flying fox feeds mainly on fruit, which it squeezes in its mouth to obtain the juices before spitting out the seeds and pulp. This species roosts in trees, where it gathers in large groups known as ‘camps’. Like other flying foxes, the Mauritian flying fox gives birth to a single young each year. Although this species is found almost entirely on Mauritius, a few individuals have also been reported from nearby Réunion in recent years.
The main threat to the Mauritian flying fox is deforestation. Only around five percent of the original vegetation on Mauritius now remains, and over half the plants the Mauritian flying fox feeds on are introduced species. Despite legal protection, this large bat is hunted for food and sport, and in 2006 the Mauritian government endorsed a culling programme as a result of alleged damage to fruit crops. The Mauritian flying fox occurs in a number of protected areas and is listed on Appendix II of CITES, but illegal hunting is still reported to occur. Recommended conservation measures include research into this bat’s populations, together with habitat restoration, education campaigns and captive breeding. The effects of culling also need to be assessed, as does the effectiveness of netting fruit trees to protect crops. The Mauritian flying fox plays a vital role in pollination and seed dispersal, so conserving this species will also help maintain the health of the island’s remaining forests.
Find out more about bat conservation at:
- Bat Conservation International: http://www.batcon.org/
- Organization for Bat Conservation: http://www.batconservation.org/
- Bat Conservation Trust: http://www.bats.org.uk/
Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author