Mauritius Fruit Bat
IUCN status: Endangered.
Bats are the only mammals native to the Mascarene Islands. Once there were three fruit bat species, one is now extinct, leaving one species each on Mauritius (Pteropus niger) and Rodrigues (P. rodricensis). Once widespread over Mauritius, the Mauritius Fruit Bat population has decreased considerably due to habitat loss, cyclones and illegal sport hunting. Although this bat became extinct on Reunion, where it was last recorded in 1790, the island has been recolonized by a handful of individuals over the last decade.
The Mauritius Fruit Bat currently exists in relatively high numbers. However, it recently faced a new and serious threat to its existence, when the Mauritian Government discussed the possibility of culling this species, despite its IUCN listing, in order to protect the interests of fruit farmers. MWF has provided scientific and management advice to the Government to convince them that plans to legalize culling could have catastrophic effects. In fact, the extent to which this fruit bat takes lychees in comparison to other fruit eaters (such as the Ring-necked Parakeet, Common Mynah, Red-whiskered Bulbul, and rats) has not been scientifically determined.
In 2009, a positive step was taken when the Government carried out a sensitization campaign for the protection of farmed fruit and promoted the use of nets to protect fruit from bats and birds, along with a grant scheme to purchase the nets, which was extended into 2010. We encourage the Government to continue with this scheme and to promote the propagation of dwarf fruit trees which will improve fruit protection and harvesting.
The most recent MWF survey by the National Parks and Conservation Service, in 2007, found that the minimum population size of the Mauritius Fruit Bat is around 25,000 individuals. This may initially seem quite a large number, but this fruit bat has just been uplisted from Vulnerable to Endangered by the IUCN, due to its reduced range, the continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat, and the impending threat of legalized culling.
Although there are no active projects on the Mauritius Fruit Bat currently, MWF does maintain two captive populations at the Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary (GDEWS) and on Ile aux Aigrettes, and closely follows the population figures to be able to take any conservation action if required.