Source : Pixabay/Salmar
Flying foxes, which are actually large bats with fox-like faces are on the verge of extinction for a long time. These animals eat fruits, flowers as well as nectar and they are vital for pollinating plants and dispersing seeds as they can fly over a long distance. Understandably, in a recent article published in Science magazine, scientist Tigga Kingston and her co-authors laid down the importance of the preservation.
Kingston said, “Island flying foxes were recognized as a group of conservation concern more than 30 years ago when intense hunting and commercial trading of species on Pacific islands precipitated the extinction of at least one species, the endemic Guam flying fox, and led to dramatic declines in others. Thirty years later, flying fox populations on islands are still declining because of hunting and habitat loss, and new issues, notably conflict between bats and fruit growers over crops, have arisen.”
According to the article, the conflict has seen more than 45 percent of the overall flying fox population in Mauritius eliminated in the recent years.
The article comes after a symposium on the conservation of island vertebrates during the Second International Conference of Island Evolution, Ecology and Conservation in 2016.
Kingston said, “I had hoped that 30 years on, the conservation status of flying foxes on islands would have improved,” Kingston said. “That’s not the case.
“Conservation on islands is especially challenging – island populations are inherently small, often endemic to the island or of limited distribution, and threats such as loss of native habitats and introduction of non-native species commonly interact to place immense pressure on remnant populations. Within this context, however, island flying foxes are particularly vulnerable because they are simultaneously subject to so many interacting threats and reproduce very slowly. So populations are very slow to recover from losses, increasing extinction risk.”
“On top of all this, bats often have a bit of public relations problem, feared or associated with negative myths, or just considered a nuisance, and the importance of the critical ecosystem services they provide to island communities is rarely known,” Kingston said. “Island flying foxes play keystone roles as seed dispersers and pollinators of both native and economically important plants, and on many islands they are the only effective disperser or pollinator left. The rest, like the dodo on Mauritius, are already lost to extinction. The key point is that declines and losses of flying foxes are not just a tragedy in their own right, but will have profound consequences for island ecosystems in the coming decades.”