The Mauritius Fruit Bat: A Need for Protection

The Mauritius Fruit Bat is known to be the only remaining native mammal on the island. It is what is known as a large megabat species and is also known as the Mauritian Flying fox. In July 2018, its conservation status was upgraded to the endangered category, meaning that in the future it is very likely to become extinct. This is what happened on the island of Reunion in the 18th century.

The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation is understandably profoundly concerned about this turn of events. They are convinced that the loss of population of the bat is a direct result of the official cull which took place in 2015 and 2016. Even at that time, conservationists argued that the slaughter wasn’t necessary, despite its approval from the government as a way of controlling the species.

The cull was initially organised to cut the population of the Mauritius Fruit Bat, as it was believed to number over 100000. They were said to be causing significant damage to the banana, pineapple and lychee crops, thus putting the country’s export trade at risk. The cull was supposed to have wiped out over 40% of the bat population, leading to widespread condemnation.

Specialist and expert groups have warned that the extinction of the fruit bat would have a shocking impact on the biodiversity of the island, as the bats play an essential role in the pollination of native flowers, and the dispersal of their seeds. Other threats to the bat include illegal hunting, the loss of their natural habitat and cyclones. At the time of the cull, 80% of the Mauritian islanders opposed it.

Today, the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation is doing its utmost to ensure the future of the fruit bat, holding workshops to research the problem of preserving the island’s fruit humanely. Proposals include the use of netting to protect the crops. It can only be hoped that their efforts are successful.