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Madagascar Rousette (Rousettus madagascariensis)
Bats
Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 09 March 2010 21:30

Madagascar's smallest fruit bat species

A small, endemic fruit bat that is heavily hunted by people for food.

Description

Rousettus madagascariensis is Madagascar’s smallest fruit bat and certainly the least studied so far. Because of its small size it is the only Malagasy fruit bat that can flying inside forest and thus potentially plays an important role in seed dispersal and pollination. It uses caves during the day in colonies can number thousand of individuals. These bats are eaten by people and are subject to severe hunting pressure.

Conservation

We have a dual approach to conserving this species, based around human-bat interactions and forest conservation.

This bat is hunted by people inside caves where both the disturbance from people and loss of bats is likely to have negative consequences.  To better understand this issue we have a project in Anosibe An'ala that is studying the movement of individual bats between different cave roosts. This will allow us to better understand how often, when and why the bats move between caves and will help us to predict the consequence of sustained hunting. This project is linked to our bushmeat and we aim to use results from our scientific research to support these other initiatives.

Another interaction between this bat species and people is when the bats feed on cash fruit crops, such as lychee (litchi). We have studied this for two years and found major regional differences in the extent to which this bat inflicts serious damage to fruit, and peolples' livelihoods. In fact, the other two larger species of fruit bat are more likely to cause problems for fruit tree owners. 

The second approach is to develop conservation measures with local communities around cave roosts. In this sense, the bats are not necessarily the focus of the conservation because the main emphasis is on reducing deforestation. We then integrate measures to conserve the roosting bats in the community management plans. This approach is implemented by our community conservation team.

More information

Some results of our studies about this bat species can be found here:

Microsatellite marker loci in the Madagascar rousette 

Rousettus madagascariensis feeding on Dimnocarpus longan