April 10, 2019

Nice mention of AfriBats

Hey folks, here's a nice mention by @fredfrick of our project and the iNat platform in a recent review:

Online databases and sharing portals (e.g., AfriBats on iNaturalist.org) offer new opportunities for recording species observations, coordinating datasharing, and potentially facilitating monitoring of species that are readily observable.

Frick, W.F., Kingston, T. & Flanders, J. (2019), A review of the major threats and challenges to global bat conservation. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.14045

Posted on April 10, 2019 21:57 by jakob jakob | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 18, 2018

The appalling carnage continues: Mauritian government announces 3rd cull of Endangered flying foxes

This is simply unheard of: due to lobbying by farmers, the Mauritian government ordered 2 large-scale culls of the endemic Mauritian flying fox (Pteropus niger).

A significant part of the population was killed in 2015 and 2016, which led to an uplisting of this species by the IUCN Red List from 'Vulnerable' to 'Endangered', the second-highest threat level before a species is gone extinct.

In response to these culls, the World Conservation Congress ratified a resolution against culling of wild bat populations.

Despite the global outrage and concern over this unprecedented, intentional killing of a highly threatened species, the Mauritian government is now ordering another cull, which would bring this species even closer to extinction.

The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation issued a comprehensive statement, and Regenwald.org re-launched their campaign in English, French, and German.

Please sign the petition linked above, spread the word via social media, and think of any means and contacts that might put the Mauritian government under pressure to revoke this irresponsible decision!

Read more on the issue here.

Posted on November 18, 2018 21:07 by jakob jakob | 3 comments | Leave a comment

February 24, 2017

IUCN resolution against culling of wild bat populations

Triggered by the appalling cull of globally threatened Mauritian flying foxes (Pteropus niger) in 2015 and 2016, a resolution was submitted to, and adopted during, the IUCN World Conservation Congress.

The resolution is entitled Protection of Wild Bats from Culling Programmes and given in full below due to its timely and outstanding relevance for the conservation of bats. Especially the last points are worth reading!

This is particularly relevant in Africa where many bat colonies face persecution due to widespread, and largely unfounded, fear of bats spreading diseases.

ACKNOWLEDGING that bats, over one fifth of terrestrial mammals, are among the most endangered species;

AWARE of alarming declines in bat populations globally, due to anthropogenic pressures such as habitat degradation, fragmentation and destruction, roost disturbance, climate change, bushmeat trade, disease and a history of persecution;

ACKNOWLEDGING that bats are long-lived mammals where females usually give birth to one young per year, reproductive rates are low and populations slow to recover from disturbance and declines;

RECOGNISING that bats have an essential role in the natural world, as insect predators and, through their seed dispersal and pollination services, are crucial to the regeneration of forests and to agriculture as a result of critical relationships with wild food crops such as cashew and durian;

FURTHER RECOGNISING that ecosystem services offered by bats are globally worth billions of US dollars annually, but are rarely evaluated or considered in natural capital accounts and policy decisions;

MINDFUL that bats remain an extremely misunderstood group of species, with many negative perceptions driving their persecution;

CONCERNED that misinformation about bats causing economic damage and transmitting diseases is exacerbating the human-bat conflict, and that lack of institutional and enforcement capacity (and willingness) are impacting bats in many regions;

ALARMED that due to perceived negative impacts on fruit harvests and human health, governments are legalising, condoning and implementing culling of bats, without a supporting scientific basis;

CONSCIOUS that culls of bats to mitigate disease may amplify the risk to human populations through increased contact rates of people with bats, changes in the dynamics of disease transmissions among bats, and stress-related increases in disease transmission;

DEEPLY CONCERNED that the loss or decline of bats has a negative impact on other species, and the critical ecosystem services they provide; and

RECOGNISING IUCN’s interventions to avert government culling of wild bat populations;

The World Conservation Congress, at its session in Hawai‘i, United States of America, 1-10 September 2016:

1. CALLS ON the Director General, the Species Survival Commission and the World Commission on Protected Areas, to provide technical and scientific support to governments and other agencies to ensure evidence-based approaches for the management of sustainable bat populations;

2. CALLS ON all IUCN State Members to allocate funding for the protection of bats and to provide incentives for conservation, adequate legislation and deterrent penalties to achieve this goal;

3. CALLS ON all IUCN Members to promote education about bats in order to dispel myths and human negativity towards bats and to foster understanding and co-habitation with people;

4. URGES governments to seek non-lethal solutions/mitigation measures to conflicts between humans and bats, as part of a strategy that combines scientific research on bat ecology and ecosystem services, as well as on life-history characteristics that support population models; and URGES governments to not authorise or sanction culls of wild bat populations unless there is peer-reviewed evidence of the significant impact of bats on food security or public health, all non-lethal solutions have been exhausted, there is clear scientific evidence and opinion that a cull will resolve the issue and not threaten species survival, and any decision to authorise a cull is underpinned by rigorous scientific evidence regarding the population structure and dynamics of the species and understanding of the impact of the proposed cull.

Posted on February 24, 2017 13:00 by jakob jakob | 6 comments | Leave a comment

October 09, 2015

Culling of Mauritian flying foxes has started!

The Government of Mauritius has announced plans to cull endemic Mauritian flying foxes (Pteropus niger), which are ranked 'Vulnerable' by the IUCN Red List. This species is already locally extinct on La Réunion, and the planned cull would seriously threaten the remaining population on Mauritius.

Please read a position statement by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and consider signing a petition against this cull.

UPDATE 1: here's the position statement by the IUCN Bat Specialist Group (also available as a pdf document).

UPDATE 2: Rettet den Regenwald, a conservation NGO, also launched a petition.

UPDATE 3: Sadly, the Government of Mauritius moved forward, and the first flying foxes have been shot down. There's a new article on National Geographic covering the issue.

UPDATE 4: WWF also issued a statement.

Posted on October 09, 2015 12:03 by jakob jakob | 7 comments | Leave a comment

September 16, 2015

More than 1500 observations!

It's been actually a while ago that AfriBats passed its 1500th observation - time to review what has happened since the last "five-hundred update", and to add some glittering charts, which are summarizing data since the project started! And just hover with your mouse over the graphs, you'll be surprised...

Data accumulation
AfriBats is on a steady increase, with some bumps and lows, but overall it's a steep accumulation of exciting bat observations:

Observations per bat family
Not surprisingly, some bat families are easier to spot (or catch, for that matter) than others. Clearly leading in this respect are fruit bats (Pteropodidae), which are frequently observed when roosting in trees:

Observed species richness per bat family
In terms of species richness, the picture is quite different and vesper bats (Vespertilionidae) are dominating. But have a look at AfriBats' checklist which species still haven't been recorded at all!

Number of observations per species
It's also quite informative how many times, on average, a species has been observed in the various families. Again, this very much depends how easy it is to spot different bat groups, but also how easy (or difficult) it is to identify them. Quite a few fruit bats (Pteropodidae) are very distinctive, and so are the 2 species of false vampire bats (Megadermatidae), Lavia frons and Cardioderma cor. Many horseshoe bats (Rhinolophidae), free-tailed bats (Molossidae), vesper bats (Vespertilionidae) and bent-winged bats (Miniopteridae) can only be identified to species level if handled and examined in detail by a specialist, hence the low number of species observations in these groups (there are many observations in these families IDed to genus but not species level):

Let's highlight some of the exciting new observations:

Already mentioned was one of my favourite species, the heart-nosed bat (Cardioderma cor), which has been observed here, here, and here. Check out this video, quite appropriately entitled Cutest Bat in the World:

The African sheath-tailed bat, Coleura afra, is widely distributed in East Africa while there are surprisingly few records from West Africa. When James Steamer shared an observation of bats roosting in a historic dungeon near Freetown, Sierra Leone, we suspected that these bats might belong to that species. A few month later, Natalie Weber had the opportunity to visit the very same site and to examine the bats in more detail, which confirmed the initial suspicion, and resulted in the first record of Coleura afra for Sierra Leone!

There were quite a few other observations of rarely recorded species, one of which was Daubenton's free-tailed bat, Myopterus daubentonii, observed by Natalie in Senegal. That's an amazing species with semi-transparent wing membranes!

We've seen wonderful glimpses of natural history such as observations of perch-hunting roundleaf bats, Hipposideros commersonii, in Madagascar. The bats cling to the trunk of trees, or hang from branches, while constantly scanning their surroundings with echolocation. Once a large insect passes through their "field of hearing" (such as a large beetle or hawk-moth), they will intercept and catch it, and then usually eat the prey after returning to the same perch.

Other observations are simply breathtaking shots of bat diversity such as this amazing Seychelles Flying Fox (Pteropus seychellensis) from La Digue.

Rather than photographing bats, there are loads of possibilities to record the sounds of bats - either the echolocation calls of insect-eating bats, or the courtship calls of epauletted fruit bats as done here and here. The how-to is outlined in an earlier post. Definitely a largely untapped opportunity to document bat occurrences across Africa!

My personal highlight was witnessing (again) the breathtaking colony of straw-coloured fruit bats, Eidolon helvum, in Kasanka NP, Zambia and tracking their movements with GPS-loggers. If you get the chance, don't miss this unique spectacle and visit Kasanka between October and New Year!

Many studies have shown the outstanding role of these bats as ecosystem providers, a message that needs to be widely publicized in times when bats have received very negative press coverage due to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. So observations like this and this help improving the public perception of bats, and each AfriBats participant can contribute by spreading the word!

Also, AfriBats continues documenting bats as bushmeat in various parts of the continent such as in Ghana (here and here) or in DR Congo. Hunting bats is clearly not sustainable given the very slow reproduction of these mammals (most give birth to 1 or 2 pups per year), and avoiding bats as bushmeat is certainly a good way minimizing potential risks of disease transmission! Check out the position paper on bats and Ebola by Bat Conservation Africa (BCA) in case you haven't seen it yet (long version here)!

I'm very much looking forward to the next 500 observations! Cheers, Jakob

Posted on September 16, 2015 18:45 by jakob jakob | 5 comments | Leave a comment

May 16, 2015

AfriBats' participation in the Global Snapshot of Biodiversity

Hello AfriBatters!

From May 15-25 is the Global Snapshot of Biodiversity for National Geographic's Great Nature Project, which means they're encouraging everyone to get outside during this time and share observations of biodiversity using iNaturalist. In the spirit of this event, we'd like to challenge everyone in two ways:

1. Let's add 20 new observations during the period. The current total stands at 1450 observations, so the target by 25th May is 1470 observations.

2. There are still quite a lot of species for which there is not a single observation on AfriBats, hence many of these species don't have a picture to illustrate the respective species pages. Let's target these species, some of which should be fairly easy to find.

We always welcome African bat observations from any time, but this is a great excuse for you to go outside now and document the bats in your neighbourhood.You know where they are, but AfriBats doesn't unless you share them! At the end of the Global Snapshot, we'll recognize the contributors and their observations.

Thanks for everything you contribute, we look forward to exciting new stuff!

Posted on May 16, 2015 11:50 by jakob jakob | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 04, 2015

AfriBats is on Facebook

Hi everyone! Check out the Facebook page of AfriBats.

It is jointly run by Carrie Seltzer and John Kinghorn. They will be highlighting interesting observations on this page, and interacting with the Facebook community.

Please use this page to spread the word: if you see bat observations from Africa posted to Facebook, let them know about AfriBats and invite them to share their observations with iNaturalist. Also, inform tour operators, conservation projects and staff of protected areas about AfriBats.


Posted on May 04, 2015 14:32 by jakob jakob | 1 comments | Leave a comment

May 27, 2014

1000th observation passed!

Today, the AfriBats-project passed its 1000th observation with a beautiful series of long-term observations of a family of Mauritian tomb bats (Taphozous mauritianus) by Martin Grimm from Tanzania.

Since the last collection of highlights, there's been a fantastic and increasing number of bat observations from around Africa, Madagascar and smaller islands. Some were obtained during dedicated research projects while a large number was contributed by interested citizen scientists.

Jack Bradbury, of Hypsignathus-fame, shared some of his historic bat observations from Gabon, which date back to the 1970ies and which were taken during a time when technology was far less advanced than today. Hard to imagine the serious constraints to bat research back in the days!

A stunner is the offshore sighting of a straw-coloured fruit bat, Eidolon helvum.

The same species was the focus of James Agyei-Ohemeng's observations at the University of Natural Resources in Sunyani, Ghana, who documented the fluctuating occupation of roost trees by straw-coloured fruit bats.

It's always nice to see bats in action, e.g. fruit bats photographed while feeding as in this, this, this, and this observation.

My personal highlight is the probably first ever picture of a roosting short-palated fruit bat, Casinycteris argynnis, taken in Dzanga-Sangha National Park, CAR.

Another nice story is that of a Kenyan lady reporting bats from a cave in Karura Forest, Nairobi, which Paul Webala later tracked down and identified as Angolan collared fruit bats (Myonycteris angolensis).

New species such as Rhinolophus willardi or Rhinolophus cohenae have been described, and AfriBats is glad to showcase pictures of these as well as some other little-known species, which will hopefully also help to put them more into the focus of conservations efforts: although bats do not belong to the "charismatic megafauna", many are threatened and urgently need better protection. Have you ever heard about Morris' myotis (Myotis morrisi)?

Very special mention goes to Paul Webala from Kenya and Natalie Weber from Germany, who have both significantly contributed to the growth of AfriBats.

All in all, it's been a wonderful journey through the next bunch of 500 observations, and I look very much forward to your new contributions over the coming month. Please share your thoughts, and show your own highlights, all of which you can do by leaving comments on this post.

Posted on May 27, 2014 21:57 by jakob jakob | 1 comments | Leave a comment

September 07, 2013

Sound recordings: echolocation & courtship calls of bats

You can now document observations by recording sounds. That's an exciting possibility for echolocation calls as well as mating calls of epauletted fruit bats. Currently, you have to upload your recording to SoundCloud, and then add the recording to the observation on iNat.

Please follow these steps when adding a sound to an observation:
1. Sign up for a SoundCloud account at www.soundcloud.com
2. Link your iNaturalist account to SoundCloud. There is a link to connect to SoundCloud under "Your profile" => "Edit your your profile". If you are not linked to SoundCloud, you will be prompted to link to SoundCloud when you add a sound to an observation.
3. Record a sound in the field.
4. Add an observation with location and date (preferably also with time). Click on “Add sounds” in the upper right hand corner.
5. You should see a list of your sounds on SoundCloud. Click on the box next to your sound recording, and then “Save observation” at the bottom of the page.

Remember, you can post sounds in addition to photographs or based on sounds alone. I've added new observation fields (recording method, time expansion factor and bat detector model), which should be used as essential background information when sharing echolocation calls.

Posted on September 07, 2013 20:38 by jakob jakob | 1 comments | Leave a comment

June 13, 2013

AfriBats highlights

Hi everyone!

To celebrate the 500th bat observation on AfriBats & iNaturalist, I thought I go through the archive and pull out my favourite top ten observations. Well, it's been extremely exciting since the start of the project, so the list is a bit longer than just 10, but I promise that each of them is worth looking at!

Two spectacular predation events have been documented: A Black Mamba systematically searching the holes in the pole of an electricity line and getting a house bat (probably Scotophilus viridis) as a reward:
plus a Grey Kestrel snatching a Lavia frons:

I've also enjoyed bat observations in their nocturnal environment, e.g. photos of fruit bats while feeding:
www.inaturalist.org/observations/218949 – yes, you've been caught in the act!
Or a stunning series of Lavia frons and a Nycteris feeding on insects:
And a Nycteris snapped with a camera trap during foraging:

Bats as bushmeat: as many of you know, this is a huge challenge for conservation in some parts of Africa and surrounding islands. Observations show Eidolon helvum being sold on the markets in Congo-Brazzaville, and other fruit bats (Pteropus & Rousettus) being hunted and prepared on Madagascar:
Probably most of you will find these pictures disconcerting, but I feel that sharing this through AfriBats will help to assess the scale and extent of bats as bushmeat, and eventually inform conservation actions where required.

Simply amazing is the offshore record of Taphozous mauritianus, demonstrating the excellent dispersal capacity of this species (these bats have colonized São Tomé & Annobón in the Gulf of Guinea as well as several islands in the Indian Ocean):

And finally some funny observations, for instance these emballonurids riding a train:
Or a Gambian epauletted fruit bat patrolling the patio of a building (you can save the watchdog if you are lucky and have one of these around):

AfriBats has been a full-blown success due to the commitment of every single contributor and by far exceeds my initial expectations. Still, I'm not only hoping for a steady influx of new observations, but that this project will attract even more interest, e.g. with guides, rangers and managers of protected areas in Africa so as to become viral. Think of an annual BatBlitz in a national park where visitors, bat interest groups and scientists are collaborating to observe as many bats as possible in a single day.

Why not put out a camera trap in front of a baobab flower, a shea butter tree or a roost entrance? Do you know fruit bats roosting under the porch of your house – what about taking a picture every month and thus documenting group size and reproduction of these bats?

For those of you experienced with the identification of African bats: come on board! Not everyone needs to share observations, and additional expertise in species identification is more than welcome.

All in all we're jointly building a wonderful resource, and I'm very much looking forward to the next 500 observations. Stay batty, and see you on iNat!

Posted on June 13, 2013 10:17 by jakob jakob | 0 comments | Leave a comment