Campaign News and special recommendation 
 
Welcome to the fifth edition of the Year of the Bat Chat published by UNEP/CMS in English, French and Spanish. 
 
The fifth Year of the Bat Chat has a focus on the conservartion status of bats as well as bat activities in the Asia Pacific region. Seven articles offer a tour d'horizon on conservation news and challenges. Learn how the image of bats changes along their journey and across the many countries bats visit every year. 
 
Note: The views expressed in the articles are not necessarily those of the CMS Secretariat. 
 
 
Online Registration and Event Map 
There is still great interest around the world in celebrating bats. ... 
 
As a result, an increasing number of events was recorded through our online registration system. 116 events are displayed in an attractive and easily searchable way on our website. 
A Personal Touch 
In order to further encourage others to help bats, please share your own bat story with us. We would like to feature our readers' personal bat experience, be it an event you participated in, a rescued bat or a visit to bat caves. A special newsletter edition will be published to showcase the personal bat experiences of bat friends across the globe. Please send your story of no more than 100 words to yearofthebat@cms.int. 
 
The regional focus of the next Year of the Bat newsletter will be placed on Africa. We look forward to receiving your stories! 
 

Waiter, there’s a bat in my rice! 
A field report by Ian Redmond, CMS Ambassador 

I like bats. True, I’ve never studied them formally, but I’ve worked alongside chiroptologists on expeditions and once accepted an invitation to dinner in a remote village in Papua New Guinea where flying fox was on the menu (nice stew, but the meat does taste rather like bats' armpits!). I also lived in a cave for six months in Kenya studying elephants, and shared the cave with thousands of tongue-clicking fruit bats and several species of insectivorous bats whose flight path out of the cave was over the ledge on which I camped, so it was like having a ceremonial fly-past every evening at dusk. 
Yesterday, however, I had a closer than expected encounter with an Asian bat. I am in Sumatra to take some ‘panos’ (spherical panoramic photographs) for virtual ecotourism - a new concept in conservation education. Although primates and elephants are my primary goal, because it is the CMS Year of the Bat, I promised to seek out a bat roost to do a pano surrounded by flying bats (watch out for this in the coming weeks). At supper in our hotel beside Lake Toba, a rather different encounter occurred. I was enjoying watching a largish insectivorous bat flitting around the open-walled dining room doing a good job at reducing the number of mosquitoes around the ceiling lights. Some diners were flinching worriedly as it fluttered past; one man tried swatting the bat with his flip-flop while another tried with a menu. I was about to intervene, but seeing how easily the bat avoided the clumsy humans, flitting around the relatively slow-moving swats, decided to finish my meal (a fish from the lake sizzling on a hotplate, with a side dish of rice). Suddenly a bat crash-landed into my rice and expired – or maybe it expired and dropped into my rice. At first I thought a swatter had succeeded, but no – all observers agreed the bat had just plummeted onto my plate. I had barely noted that it was a horseshoe bat when, before I could take a closer look, the waiter picked it up by the wing-tips and flicked it over the balcony into the garden far below – even before I’d had a chance to take a photograph! And when I searched later, it had gone – probably eaten by one of the skinny, stump-tailed hotel cats. So why did an apparently healthy bat drop dead – literally – in mid-flight? Well, I reasoned, it could have been some deadly disease (so I asked for a new plate of rice!) but on the other hand it might have simply been old age: there are millions of bats around the world and every individual must die eventually – but the chances are pretty slim of one dying at the exact moment when its final trajectory will drop it into a CMS Ambassador’s dinner – especially during the Year of the Bat. 
 
Links: 
Virtual Ecotourism 
 
© Maria Hoffmann 
The reaction of the other diners, though, indicates just why the Year of the Bat is so necessary – most people still regard bats with fear and revulsion rather than awe and wonder, and dislike them rather than appreciate them for their aerial agility and consumption of potentially harmful insects. So when I do find a bat roost and take a pano, I’ll send the link to the waiter so he might look anew at the flying visitors to the hotel dining room. 

Australia: Grey-headed Flying fox in danger 
By Nick Edards, Batwatch Australia 

The Grey-headed Flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus), which is only found in eastern Australia, is one of the world’s largest bats. Due to a rapid decline in numbers and high rates of habitat loss in the 1990’s it appears as a threatened species on the IUCN Red List. The species is also protected under the EPBC Act (Australian Commonwealth law). 
 
Grey-headed Flying foxes roost together in aggregations known as camps and the number of animals in any given location varies significantly over time as animals move in response to a number of factors including the availability of local food resources. Research has shown that whilst some animals may spend much of their lives in a particular region, others move freely throughout the species’ whole range which extends for more than 2,000km. 
 
This nomadic existence leads to large numbers of animals suddenly appearing in one location. This often gives rise to claims that Grey-headed Flying foxes are appearing in “plague proportions” and therefore should not be classified as a threatened species. However, these assertions ignore the reality that the appearance of large numbers of animals in one location will be offset by the disappearance of a similar number of animals elsewhere. 
© Nick Edards 
When large numbers of flying foxes establish camps in urban areas, they often attract a broad range of views in the community with calls to cull or disperse (evict) the bats. Other voices in the community call for the bats to remain undisturbed. Dispersal, by using noise and other methods in an attempt to permanently drive animals out of their habitat. This approach is often claimed to be an effective way of getting rid of bats from certain areas. In practice, dispersals have a long history of failure. 
Changes in Australian federal government policy will probably result in more dispersals taking place in future. To date the  
© Nick Edards 
impacts of dispersal on the breeding success of the species are very poorly understood the long-term effect of any given dispersal - let alone the cumulative effect of multiple dispersals - may not be determined for many years. 
 
When natural food sources are scarce, flying foxes may attempt to feed on fruit in commercial orchards where they may be shot. Whilst one Australian state authority is working actively to reduce the number of bats that are shot in orchards, another is now planning to reintroduce shooting despite there being broad agreement that the practice is both largely ineffective and cruel. Many animals die slowly from their wounds. As shooting takes place at the same time as young are being raised, orphaned young are left to die of starvation or dehydration. 
The Grey-headed Flying fox faces an uncertain future and it will take strong advocacy on the part of conservation and welfare groups to ensure that adequate resources are committed to ensuring that the species is viable in the long term. 
 
Batwatch Australia is committed to protecting native flying foxes from threats to their conservation and welfare. 
 
Links: 
Australian federal government SPRAT (Species Profile and Threats) listing for the species: 
 
News item about the reintroduction of shooting in Queensland: 
 
New South Wales government pages on the phase out off shooting in some (not all) areas of NSW: 
 
HSI page about shooting. This pre-dates the ban on shooting in NSW but has some interesting links to material that explain the issue in more detail: 

The plight of Queensland’s natural pollinators 
By Denise Wade, Bat Conservation and Rescue Qld. Inc. 

© Denise Wade 
Although South East Queensland hosts a sizeable flying fox population, numbers are in rapid decline. Spectacled flying foxes are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ under the Commonwealth Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). As of 2008, the species is listed as ’Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In December 2001, the Grey-headed flying fox was also listed as vulnerable under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Flying foxes suffer many hazards in modern Australia such as barbed wire and nets set to protect fruit trees in gardens, dog attacks, collisions with cars, electrocution on powerlines, illegal shooting, colony persecution and habitat destruction. These human hazards are compounded by natural attrition from predators as well as seasonal flowering failures and extreme climatic occurrences such as cyclones and extremes of heat and cold. 
Each and every year across Australia, thousands of flying foxes die a violent death on barbed wire fences and from being trapped in backyard drape netting. Flying foxes have traditionally been viewed as a pest species and this mindset has been reinforced by the media and a newly elected State Government that considers reintroducing the shooting of flying foxes as a legitimate method of crop protection. 
 
The role that flying foxes play in spreading seeds and pollinating our forests cannot be underestimated. They have developed a symbiotic relationship with Australian forests that has endured for millions of years and ensures our forests remain healthy and diverse. State governments have repeatedly failed to recognize the flying foxes’ vital role. Australia’s essential forest pollinators are  
© Denise Wade 
reviled and persecuted wherever they roost. The unfounded and irrational fear of disease has played a pivotal role in the vilification of flying foxes across the country. 
 
Flying foxes are the gardeners of Australia’s forests but they are afforded very little protection and their future is by no means assured. 
 
 
Links: 
Bat Conservation and Rescue Qld. Inc. 
or contact Denise Wader: vicepresident@bats.org.au  

China: Sustaining “Good Luck” 
By Jianhong Xia 
Magazine Nature & SciTech, in affiliation with the Shanghai Science & Technology Museum 

In 2011 I visited the South Philippines where local people guided me to a bat cave in Samal Island. The cave is home to the largest known colony of the Geoffroy’s Rousette fruit bats (Rousettus amplexicaudatus) in the world with a population of 1.8 million. All the bats roost along the walls of the cave like black leaves. 
 
As an environmental journalist and editor for the magazine Nature and SciTech, I decided to help raise awareness of bat conservation. Meanwhile, I happened to meet and then interviewed two graduate students, Ambre Graham and Lindsey George from the Christopher Newport University (CNU) in Virginia, USA. Both of them studied this species on Samal Island. While researching additional resources online, I came across the Year of the Bat Campaign 2011-2012 led by the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS). 
 
Rousettus Amplexicaudatus  
© Jianhong Xia 
The Year of the Bat opened a new world to me! I realized that bats are really smart animals. Although they are very useful for humans, they are threatened by human activities. Actually in Chinese culture bat (Bianfu) means Good Luck, “fu”. Bats are linked to culture, environment and science. I raised the topic and persuaded my boss to report the Year of the Bat as the theme of the July issue of the Magazine. 
 
© Jianhong Xia 
Year of the Bat Ambassador Dr. Merlin Tuttle, one of the leading scientists and bat conservationists in the world contributed an article about the ecological services provided by the flying mammals, such as pollination, pest control and fertilizer. Ambre Graham and Lindsey George shared their new discoveries on fruit bat behaviour in the Philippines. Ambre describes the reproductive behaviour of this species. This animal gives birth while hanging upside down. Lindsey examined their grooming behaviour and found out that they do this to stay in good health. Dr. Jinshuo Zhang shared his bat stories with my audience. He works as not only a researcher but also an educator at the National Museum of Zoology, China. 
In his article, the young specialist also mentioned the impact of careless management on bat caves by local tourism agencies. 
 
The Magazine celebrates the Year of the Bat by organizing and publishing articles, thus enabling the public to understand and appreciate the fascinating creatures properly. We hope “fu”, good luck in Mandarin, be sustained forever. 

Malaysia: Terangganu bans hunting of flying foxes 
By Sheema Abdul Aziz, Rimba 

Scientists in Malaysia are spreading the good news that the state government of Terengganu has agreed to protect flying foxes. Terangganu is the third state to ban Pteropus hunting after Sarawak in 1998 and Johor in 2010.  

© Anuar McAfee 
Rimba, which means ‘jungle’ in Malay, is a group of biologists conducting research on threatened species and ecosystems in Malaysia. This non-profit research group was established in Malaysia in November 2010.  
 
Late last year Rimba lobbied the Terengganu state government in  
Peninsular Malaysia to impose a ban on issuing licences to hunt flying foxes in the state. The two species occurring in Malaysia – the mainland Large Flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus), also known as the giant fruit bat, and the Island Flying Fox (P. hypomelanus) - are both decreasing in numbers. Under Peninsular Malaysia’s Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, flying foxes can be legally hunted year round with a licence from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN). There is no annual restriction for the number of licences. 
 
Concerned by the number of flying foxes being shot by hunters for food, medicine, sport and fun, Rimba submitted a proposal outlining the importance of flying foxes and the ecosystem services they provide to people, and also highlighted the threats they are facing in the country. 
 
After the ban became effective in mid-February, the Terengganu PERHILITAN stopped issuing licences to hunt flying foxes. Rimba has also recommended that the authorities enhance monitoring and law enforcement, and gazette roost sites and important flying fox habitat such as swamps for protection. The wildlife authority is still expected to follow up on this. 
© Anuar McAfee 
Rimba intends to embark on further research on the role of flying foxes and other fruit bats in terms of pollination and seed dispersal, and also the hunting and trade of these bats. Rimba is also keen to contribute to the mitigation and management of fruit crop damage and zoonotic diseases that involve bats. 
Our research group is planning to lobby other state governments in Peninsular Malaysia to follow Terengganu's example. While an important step has been taken with the hunting ban, more challenges need to be addressed. As these bats migrate across international borders to Thailand, where hunting is already illegal, and Sumatra (Indonesia) in pursuit of fruiting and flowering trees as well as new roosting sites, regional cooperation is needed in order to effectively protect and conserve these bats. 
 
Links: 
Find out more about Rimba on our website or contact Sheema Abdul Aziz: 
Email:sheema@myrimba.org 

New Zealand: Promoting educational activities to conserve bats 
By Ben Paris, Senior Biodiversity Advisor, Auckland Council 

© Christina Stewart 
Two species of endemic bats live in New Zealand (New Zealand Long-tailed Bat Chalinolobus tuberculatus, and New Zealand Lesser Short-tailed Bat Mystacina tuberculata) both of which are highly threatened species. Only relatively recently has it been discovered that remnant populations of Long-tailed bat are surviving on the edge of some of our cities. This has provided some unique opportunities to get the urban human population involved with bat awareness and conservation. 
 
Hamilton is one of the few cities in New Zealand to still support a resident population of Long-tailed bats. Project Echo began in 2009, is a multi agency conservation programme focusing on protection and education around urban populations of Long-tailed Bats. Project Echo aims to gather information on bat distribution throughout Hamilton city. This project could lead to on-going work to protect bat roosting trees and provide predator control. 
 
Nocturnal tours have run 16 times with a total of 317 participants ages between 5 and 70. Bats are the main feature of this tour, but it also includes glow worms, spiders, owls and eels. A survey by Waikato Museum found more than 50 per cent of participants in the tours did not know New Zealand or Hamilton even had bats, but after the tour more than 90 per cent will check for bat occupation before felling a tree.  
These tours have led to opportunities to allow the community to apply to fund their own bat detectors for their own citizen science research. Local schools and technical institutes have donated their time to make and install community bat roost boxes. To date none of the bat roost boxes has been occupied (the oldest has been in place for 18 months) but Project Echo is experimenting with different wood, designs and locations to see what New Zealand bats may like. 
In Auckland, the “bat movement” seems to spread by word of mouth. NZ Batman, the bat spokesperson, has talked at various community group meetings, international conferences, and school groups. The school groups are the most rewarding with over 100 excitable children between 6 and 10 years old who have now become enthusiastic bat advocates after their presentation from NZ Batman. 
 
Various letters and drawings from the school kids show they are now huge fans of bats, and teachers tell us they now cannot stop talking of bats. Even senior citizens in Auckland that NZ Batman has spoken to at garden and other interest clubs have been fascinated to find out bats are living in their city. Recent bat surveys by the Auckland Council have found new populations of bats in the region of which no one was aware before. 
© Maria Galbraith 
This shows there is a lot more work for bat conservation and awareness to let the public know about these bats and what they can do to help. 
 
 
Links: 
or contact: Ben.Paris@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz 
Click here to download the factsheet 
 

Taiwan: Bats – a Chinese symbol of good luck 
By Chao-Lung Hsu and Hsiao-Wen Chiu, Bat Conservation Society of Taipei 

In Taiwan, most people associate bats with luck. Bats are featured in Chinese art, including paintings, furniture, jewellery, decorations, temples, and even in Chinese tableware. They are omnipresent. In Chinese culture, bats have long been celebrated as bringers of good luck and happiness. The Chinese “wu-fu”, a symbol of happiness, features five stylized bats. 
 
People in Taiwan know that “wu-fu” means “five luck”, the greatest five wishes for a human life. Nevertheless, due to negative perception in the media, bats now conjure up images of vampires. 
 
In order to celebrate the Year of the Bat and to educate people about bats, the Bat Society of Taipei (BCST) has been organizing a number of educational bat activities during this summer.  
 
More than 500 people, young and old, have joined the most popular summer activity in Taipei, the "Lucky Taipei 2012, Bat Watching Festival". The event is jointly organized with the Animal Protection Office of Taipei City at the temple of Prince of Yanping Command (Koxinga) in Nei-hu. People enjoy a one-and-a-half-hour class on bats before taking a short walk to watch the animals. 
 
The proximity of the most famous bat roosting site is the reason for staging this unique event here: the habitat, a culvert around mountains, was constructed after a typhoon hit Nei-hu at Taipei city. In 2007 thousands of Schreiber's Long-fingered Bats (Miniopterus schreibersii) settled there. They might fly more than 200km per night and migrate to other countries. The Taiwan Leaf-nosed Bat (Hipposideros armiger terasensis), the largest insectivorous bat in Taiwan, can be found there as well. Furthermore, Taipei Zoo and BCST are organizing bats summer camps in which young people can not only learn more about bats but also do something for a good cause: building bat houses. The Taipei Zoo and BCST will start a project with the objective of building more than 200 bat boxes this summer. 
 
BCST helps setting up bat boxes at elementary schools across Taiwan for education and further research. Teachers engage in monitoring. A field trip to watch bats has already successfully taken place in Rui-fang in New Taipei. Up to thirty teenagers participated in the trip and were able to see more than 300,000 female long-winged bats gathered in a cave giving birth. The bats can only be watched from outside the cave and during summer in the bat park. Collaboration between the National Museum of Nature Science, Taipei Zoo and BCST led to a bat exhibition at the zoo. It opened in May and was expected to last throughout the Year of the Bat. However, due to its overwhelming success it might be extended until May 2013. Through these activities, the Bat Conservation Society of Taipei is not only expecting to spread scientific facts about bats but also to familiarize people, especially the young, with the traditional bat culture. 
 
Links: 
For more information please visit our website: http://www.batinfo.org 
or contact: chaolung@batinfo.org 
© Chao-Lung Hsu 
© Chao-Lung Hsu 
© Chao-Lung Hsu 

Recommended Reading 

Visit the official Year of the Bat website, follow Year of the Bat on Facebook www.facebook.com/yearofthebat or e-mail us at yearofthebat@cms.int. Get involved with Year of the Bat and help maintain our valuable eco-systems. 
 
We hope that you have enjoyed reading the Year of the Bat Chat and look forward to your personal bat story. 
 
Best wishes and until the next time, 
The Year of the Bat Team 
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