Dry season surveys of Livingstone’s fruit bat underway

Surveying Livingstone's fruit bat Anjouan Comoros

Field technician Daniel Salim counting bats. Photo credit: B. Daniel

Now that our legs are sufficiently rested after the wet season surveys of the Livingstone’s fruit bat population which finished in January, the ECDD project ecological research team are embarking on surveys in the dry season to complete the evaluation of the status of the species.

During the wet season surveys we counted a total of 749 adults. This is a big decline from the last count which recorded 1050 individuals in 2006.  But the population at each roost tends to fluctuate a throughout the year, so we need to repeat the counts in the dry season as well to work out what’s really going on.

The bats roost communally in certain trees, high up in the forests of Anjouan and Mohéli, as the species doesn’t cope well with disturbance. But as yet, there is no official protection for the roost sites of this endangered species.  The Comoros is very densely populated and the pressure on the forest for agricultural land is the main threat to the bats’ roosts. We’ve found banana fields directly under many roosts and a new road has been built less than 100 metres from one roost.

Livingstone's fruit bat Anjouan Comoros

Livingstone’s fruit bats have characteristic rounded ‘Mickey Mouse’ ears. Photo credit: B. Daniel

Livingstone's fruit bat roost Anjouan Comoros

1, 2, 3…. Or have I counted that one already? Roost at Limbi, Anjouan. Photo credit: B.Daniel

When we set out to survey the bats in the wet season we knew of 17 roosts around Anjouan. Of these, one has since been struck by lightning and another abandoned by the bats.  Another roost, Lingoni, was incredibly close to being wiped out by a landslide. After an hour of scrambling around the slopes with increasing fear of the roost having been destroyed it was a huge relief to find the bats! The combination of natural disasters and human pressures indicates the precarious nature of the Livingstone’s fruit bat population.

Landslide next to Livingstone's fruit bat roost Anjouan Comoros

This landslide only just missed the roost at Lingoni which is in the first set of trees. Photo credit: B. Daniel

This dry season we plan to obtain a population estimate for the entire Livingstone population.  We’ll be visiting every roost we know about, and also following rumours to search for other roosts further into the forest, in particular in Mohéli where less research has been done. As well as counting the bats we will be collecting data on the habitat surrounding each roost, to find out the species of trees that the bats use and the environment they prefer.  We will also be talking to landowners to evaluate the threats each roost faces, and discuss possible options for protecting the bats.

Follow us here on this blog and on Facebook and Twitter to learn about life on Anjouan and the work of the ECDD project.  We’ll keep you updated on the number of bats we have found, how many sweaty metres we have climbed to each roost, challenges that we encounter, stories from the field and much more!

Anjouan forested slope

Anjouan’s slopes are not for the faint hearted…

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