The government of Mauritius has announced its plans of culling 20 percent of the endemic Mauritius fruit bat, also called a flying fox, on the island. This bat is the only type of fruit bat to exist on Mauritius. In doing this, the government hopes that there will be fewer bats, which will help reduce damages to fruits like mangoes and litchis in orchards and boost revenue for fruit farmers.
The Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security has said that the bat population on Mauritius has escalated to being a pest problem.
The government has said that the bats could be as high as 70 percent of the problem for fruits like mangoes and litchis in orchards. The government plans to cull 20% or 18,000 bats in the next few weeks.
However, the bat experts believe that the methods used to estimate the number of bats is flawed; therefore, the number of bats killed in the culls could be more than 20% of the bat population.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has said culling these numbers of bats could be disastrous for the native bat species. They have said that doing this could change the status of these bats from Vulnerable to Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List which is the world's most comprehensive information on global conservation.
Ryszard Oleksy, a doctoral student at the University of Bristol in the U.K., who has been monitoring bat movements in Mauritius, has said that the same bats could have been counted in the north of the island as well as in the south a few weeks later since they move such great distances. “Where is the damage caused by birds, rats, monkeys, wind or fruit fly?,” Oleksy asked. “All these animals feed on commercial fruits.” His research shows that birds cause as much problem as bats. He also found that 20% of the fruits are damaged due to natural causes like wind or over-ripening, causing fruits to fall to the ground.
Conservation Director of Mauritian Wildlife Foundation has said that bats play an important ecological function like pollinating plants and dispersing seeds. He also said, “The government has scheduled the culling at a time when many bats are either pregnant or carrying young suckling babies.”
A recent study asked Mauritians what they think about the fruit bats, and they overwhelmingly said they don't want the cull.
An on-line petition is available for you to sign if you feel Mauritius should stop the cull. Go to https://www.change.org/p/the-honorable-president-of-republic-of-mauritius-dr-ameenah-gurib-fakim-sooradehoo-punchu-trilock-ujoodha-minister-of-environment-honorable-raj-dayal-minister-of-environment-sustaibale-develo-stop-the-mauritian-government-from-killing-fruit-b.
To me, this is one of the situations where more science needs to be done before taking such a drastic step. There are many instances where wildlife and people have had problems living together, but with research ways have been found to resolve the issues. For example, in Namibia, cheetahs were thought to be responsible for killing farmer's livestock. So the Cheetah Foundation obtained Anatolian guard dogs, and when these dogs were placed on the farms, the dogs scared the cheetahs away. Hopefully, a solution can be found in Mauritius. #bats #Mauritius