Campaign News 

Welcome to the sixth edition of the Year of the Bat newsletter with a focus on the African region and published by UNEP/CMS in English, French and Spanish. In addition to a field report from CMS Ambassador Ian Redmond, three articles summarize recent research results and activities of different bat conservation groups. New species and interesting facts are presented about bats with stories from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. 
 
Letting bush drums tell the bat story 
Many people do not know how important bats are for the African continent. Africa without the iconic baobab tree is inconceivable. Without bats as their main pollinators, the baobab and many other species of trees and plants would cease to exist. Bats also help to reforest the dwindling green by spreading digested seeds. In addition, bats act as agents of biological pest control. Bat colonies can contain thousands of individuals, and each animal can eat its own weight in insects every night. This considerably reduces populations of mosquitoes and agricultural pests, thereby improving rural livelihoods. Especially on the African continent, bats play a significant role in reducing malaria. Despite all their usefulness, bats still labour under a negative perception. They are frequently considered as evil or pests and persecuted as a result. 
 
Farm Radio International is a Canadian charity which works with over 400 radio stations in 38 African countries to fight poverty and food insecurity. The organization is willing to feature the Year of the Bat in its programme and educate the public on the economic and ecological benefits of these misunderstood and maligned animals. However, money is required to pay African journalists to research the situation of bats in Africa, then publish and distribute radio scripts and news stories about the Year of the Bat. YOU can make the difference in spreading the word through radio stations, "the modern bush drums of Africa"! Just donate whatever you can to the project "Year of the Bat in Africa" on the Farm Radio website at http://donate.farmradio.org/ - and bring the drums to life. Thank you! 
 
New Postcard Stickers Available Now 
The UNEP/CMS Secretariat has brought out a new set of postcards to replace the photo image ones. Adding to the 'Save bats to save the planet' slogan, they convey an even clearer message why it is so important to protect these ainmals. The additional bonus of the postcards is that they can be used as stickers at the same time. To obtain copies, simply send us your contact details, i.e. your name, full address and telephone number to yearofthebat@cms.int. We look forward to hearing from you! 
 
Protecting Africa's Bats 
First African Bat Conservation Summit sponsored by Bat Conservation International 
The first African Bat Conservation Summit will be held 10-16 February 2013 in Naivasha, Kenya. The summit will bring together conservation professionals throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and a team of global bat conservationists, all working to protect bats and establish sustainable initiatives for the future of the region. 
 
 
 
Online Registration and Event Map 
 
 
 
There is still great interest around the world in celebrating bats. The International Bat Night at the end of August has added a valuable contribution to awareness raising on bat conservation... 
 
As a result, an increasing number of events was recorded through our online registration system. 189 events are displayed in an attractive and easily searchable way on our website. Check it out for an event near you! 
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 Europe. We look forward to receiving your stories! 
 
Note: The views expressed in the articles are not necessarily those of the CMS Secretariat. 

Kenya: Like a Bat Out of Elgon 
By Ian Redmond, CMS Ambassador 

Cave-dwelling is not much in vogue these days, but it was probably through sharing caves that humans and bats first had a close association. For most people, the idea of living in a cave brings to mind images of pre-historic cave dwellers or Fred Flintstone in the TV cartoon series. But in some parts of the world, caves have offered shelter for certain communities right up to the present day. One such place is Mt Elgon, an extinct volcano on the Kenya Uganda border, where within living memory some of the famous elephant-caves were used as spacious homes by local people, with different areas cordoned off inside for their cattle and goats. The walls of these caves are blackened by generations of cooking fires, but behind the soot you can often see hundreds of smooth furrows forming a random pattern; these are tuskings, formed by salt-hungry elephants gauging the mineral-rich rock with the tips of their tusks. The people, and the bats, of Elgon were living in former elephant salt-mines. Resident humans are now a thing of the past (apart from the occasional field biologist) but the caves remain the focus of activity for much of the area’s wildlife. The best known of these caves – Kitum and Mackingeni - are open to visitors in the Mount Elgon National Park, Kenya and what better time to visit than the Year of the Bat. 
Look up as you enter and you’ll see that the soot-blackened surface is gradually being eroded away in places by the claws of roosting bats in the ceiling, and the resumed tusking of the cave walls by elephants. In side chambers, excavated by people in the past to feed the mineral-rich rock to their livestock, the ceiling is dotted here and there by solitary-roosting Rhinolophus horseshoe bats. Occasionally you’ll come across a colony of Miniopterus that pack together so tightly they look like a mat of bat stuck to the roof. Roof-falls have created higher parts of the ceiling in the cavernous entrance chamber of Mackingeni, and in the inner recesses of Kitum, and there you’ll hear the rising squeals and chatter of large roosts of Rousette’s Tongue-clicking Fruit Bats (Rousettus spp.) On the guano-spattered rocks beneath crawl blood-sucking insects, trying to find their way back up to the bats. These are Afrocimex and bear a strong resemblance to the human bed bug Cimex – perhaps an evolutionary indication of humans and bats cohabiting before we moved on to building our own ‘caves’ out of bricks and mortar. 
 
Unlike insectivorous bats, fruit bats navigate by sight and have large eyes, so looking up along the beam of your flashlight reveals a moving constellation of thousands of bats’ eyes reflecting back the light. Most species of fruit bat roost in trees, but Rousette’s Bats roost in the dark zone of caves – which you might think would present a problem for visually orientating bats. If the bats take fright at your torchlight, however, you will hear the eponymous clicking of tongues – tut, tut, tut – because these bats navigate using a rudimentary sonar, gaining an understanding of the cave topography from the echoes of each tut. It is nothing like as sophisticated as that of the smaller insectivorous bats, who can turn and wheel in the air to catch flying insects, but to be fair, fruit bats have less agile food and just need to find a place to hang. In the past, their nightly forays would have been to find fruit trees forests that stretched as far as a bat could fly. Unfortunately, pressure for farmland in this fertile part of Kenya now means that all the lower slopes outside the park are intensively cultivated and the bats forage in farmland – making them a nuisance for fruit growers. 
 
Bats hang by their toe-nails – or toe-claws to be more precise – all five of which curve the same way like a permanently hooked five-pronged rake. If you climb to the roost and take a closer look, you will see how these claws have eroded away the soft volcanic agglomerate leaving an amazing sight: perfectly preserved fossil twigs and branches. Mount Elgon was active in the late Miocene, and volcanic eruptions of ash and pyroclastic materials flattened and covered the forests that grew on its flanks between eruptions. Thanks to the mega-erosion of mining elephants and the mini-erosion of bat claws, the Tongue-clicking fruit bats of Mount Elgon today roost on the fossil branches of petrified trees deep in the dark zone of an elephant salt-mine! 
 
Links: 
Virtual Ecotourism 
Mount Elgon Elephant Monitoring Team 
 
© Ian Redmond 
Miniopterus insectivorous bats roost together in cave roof, Mt Elgon NP, Kenya. 
© Ian Redmond 
Rousettus Tongue-clicking Fruit Bats roost in cave roof, eyes reflect flash, Mt Elgon NP, Kenya. 
© Ian Redmond 
Soot-blackened cave roof and cattle stockade still in use in 1980s, Kol Cave, Mt Elgon, Kenya. 

Nigeria: Bat study in Nigeria 
By Taiye A. Adeyanju and Temidayo E. Adeyanju, Research Associates APLORI 

 
The A. P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI), Jos, Nigeria is the only field station dedicated to ornithological research and conservation training in West Africa. The institute, which is a field station of the University of Jos, contributes directly to the knowledge infrastructure in the developing countries of West Africa, while also providing a unique base from which to set up long term ecological research projects in West Africa., It runs a postgraduate program in Conservation Biology and encourages research in other taxa apart from wild birds and to date this have included butterflies, reptiles, viruses, elephants, lions, chimpanzees and most recently bats. 
Mother and baby © Temidayo E. Adeyanju 
This year APLORI granted a scholarship to my wife to study diversity of bats in two forest reserves (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture Ibadan (IITA) and Omo forest both located in the south-western part of Nigeria. Large roosts of fruit bats still occur in the two forest reserve environs we surveyed. This research project is timely because little information is available about the ecology and status of bats in Nigeria. In addition, bats are persecuted for their meat and as transmitters of diseases. 
 
Thus, hunting poses a major threat to bats in Nigeria and is common practice in the area. For example, at the University of Ibadan, just behind the zoological garden, roosts of fruit bats are indiscriminately killed by hunters, who use  
catapults to target them. In the IITA premises, gunshots are heard around fruit bat roosts, though hunting and removal of plant materials from the area is strictly forbidden by the authorities there. The meat is said to be a favored delicacy in the local drinking bars and restaurants. Bats that roost in the roofs of houses have been fumigated with formalin mix to avert transmission of rabies and bad omen. Among Yorubas, a major ethnic group in south west Nigeria, wherever bats occur in large numbers, peaceful coexistence prevails. Among researchers bats provide easily available material for studies but very little has been enforced in terms of conservation and education. 
 
This survey was the first positive and exciting bat experience for us. We used mist-nets for the study as bat detectors were not available because of budget constraints. No bats were captured on the first night! Rather, the bats damaged most of our nets. However our persistence finally yielded good results by reducing net-round time and understanding their behavior around nets. A total of 31 bat species were trapped (they include the Beatrix's Bat (Glauconycteris beatrix), the Little Collared Fruit Bat (Myonycteris torquata), the Jones's Roundleaf Bat (Hipposideros jonesi), the Zenker's Fruit Bat (Scotonycteris zenkeri), the African Yellow Bat , (Scotophilus dinganii) and the Woermann's Fruit Bat (Megaloglossus woermanni) and we now handle bats with more confidence and optimism. We have collected a representative number of specimens to further verify identification. We trapped breeding Woermann's Fruit Bat and her baby and this was one of the many highlights of our field expedition. Results reveal that pesticides have greatly reduced diversity of insect bats at IITA. 
Research is a first step to analyze the current conservation status before developing tailored conservation measures. A lot needs to be done to counteract the negative perception of bats and to educate people about the importance of these highly useful animals and the threats they face. 
 
Link: 
APLORI 

South Africa: Central Africa’s forest custodians 
By Kath Potgieter – The Endangered Wildlife Trust 

Epomophorus wahlbergi © Dawn Toussaint 
Rhinolophus darlingi  
© Gerhard du Preez 
It’s the greatest concentration of mammals in Africa but, despite the spectacle of the annual gathering of millions of Straw-coloured Fruit Bats (Eidolon helvum) in the Kasanka National Park in Zambia, it is still considered one of the continent’s best kept secrets. Approximately 8 million of these large, fruit-eating bats gather in the evergreen mashitu swamp forest from late October to mid-December to feast on the fruit of the Red Milkwood (Mimusops caffra), Water Berry (Syzygium cordatum) and Wild Loquat (Uapaca kirkiana) trees every year. Each night, as the sun begins to set, the bats, with 1 meter wide wingspans, fill the skies as they set off on their nightly foraging sessions. Researchers believe that each animal can consume up to twice its own body weight a night, accounting for a mind-boggling 5.000 tonnes of fruit every night. 
 
The enigma that caught the attention of researchers Heidi Richter and Graeme Cumming, among others, was that nobody was certain where the bats came from or where they went to after leaving Kasanka National Park. To answer their questions they fitted light-weight satellite transmitters to the backs of four male bats to track their movements once they left Kasanka. What they found was astounding. The four tagged bats moved up to 2000km from the Kasanka National Park towards the central and northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) but each animal to another region. Richter and Cumming concluded that the Kasanka colony was composed of individuals drawn from a large area of Central Africa which only came together for those few months to take advantage of the seasonal fruit abundance. 
Nycteris thebaica  
© Dawn Toussaint 
Miniopterus natalensis  
© Trevor Morgan 
Neoromicia capensis  
© Trevor Morgan 
Some of the many bat species found in Africa 
Fruit bats play an important role as pollinators of flowering plants, the dispersal and germination of seed and the subsequent establishment of woody vegetation. The Kasanka bats are thought to be particularly important in this regard as the length, duration and direction of their annual movements suggests that they may disperse seeds and nutrients very widely. This has the potential to affect the long-term sustainability of, not only, Central Africa’s forests but also human livelihoods in an area where most people are still dependent on wood, fruit and other forest products. Conservation of the Straw-coloured Fruit Bat is, thus, vital and the Kasanka Trust, responsible for managing the Kasanka National Park, has recognised this and has implemented on-going research and conservation actions on the bat’s behalf. International cooperation, to protect a functional network of roosting and foraging sites throughout their entire migration routes, in needed to ensure fruit-producing woodlands in northern Zambia and the DRC are maintained for generations to come. 
Link: 
Endangered Wildlife Trust 
or contact Kath Potgieter: kathp@ewt.org.za 

South Africa: Bat Conservation in Southern Africa 
By Professor Peter John Taylor, Department of Ecology & Resource Management, University of Venda 

Recent research on southern African bats using modern molecular and acoustic techniques shows that there are likely to be a number of un-described new species of bats in the region. 22 new species of bats have been described in the past 20 years in Africa, Madagascar and associated Indian Ocean islands. In September 2012, we reported in the PLOS ONE journal the exciting discovery of another four new species of horseshoe bats in southern Africa
 
This discovery comes two years after the first recent standard work “Bats of Southern and Central Africa: A Biogeographical and Taxonomic Synthesis” was published in 2010. It represents the culmination of more than a century of research into bats from the southern African subcontinent. Distribution maps were based on African bat museum collections from all over the world assembled over at least the last century. 
Newly described species of Southern African bat, Smither's horsehoe bat (R. smithersi) 
© Peter John Taylor 
This book includes species accounts of 116 bat species, of which 22 are listed as Threatened or Near-Threatened in the global Red Data List and a further 14 are listed as Data Deficient. This work was founded principally on historical mammal collections as well as more modern studies of the ecology and biology of bats.  
 
Since the early 1990s, increased media and public awareness on bats has led to the formation of bat interest groups comprising largely citizen scientists dedicated to bat conservation. The Bat Interest Group of KwaZulu-Natal (Bats KZN) was founded in February 1994 as a conservation-based NGO aimed at enhancing research, conservation and public awareness of South Africa’s bats. The group answered public queries, conducted talks, training courses for the public and pest control companies, documented bat roosts, and cared for injured and sick bats. 
 
A second such group, the Gauteng and Northern Regions Bat Interest Group (GNorBIG) was formed in 1995. A third, informal bat group based at the University of Cape Town focuses mostly on bat research and training of postgraduate students in bat ecology and systematics. These groups continue actively to the present day and help to foster public interest and to advise on national matters relating to bat conservation in South Africa such as the recently formulated TOPS (Threatened or Protected Species) regulations. They fall under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) of 2004, which specifically offer protection to one species of local bat, the large-eared mastiff bat (Otomops martienssenii) as well as new provincial legislation (in KwaZulu-Natal) on standards for captive care of indigenous wildlife including bats. Bats KZN has pioneered methods for rehabilitation of stranded and injured bats; apart from their own ongoing successful rescue efforts they consult individuals and animal welfare groups nationally and internationally. 
 
 
Bat groups also provide input on the formulation of policy relating to environmental impact assessments of wind energy proposals in South Africa (wind farms have been shown to cause massive mortality to bats under certain conditions). They also advise provincial nature conservation authorities on lists of threatened bat species as well as providing guidance to nature conservation authorities and mistnet suppliers on permit applications for bat research. 
 
Bat groups are engaged in discussions concerning the possibility of an African agreement on migratory bats species similar to that of EUROBATS. By monitoring roosts of threatened and other bat species, bat groups have highlighted threats to bats. Bats KZN documented a catastrophic decline probably due to human disturbance in a breeding population of Percival's Trident Bat roosting in inspection tunnels in South Africa’s third largest dam, Jozini Dam, leading to a Red List rating of Critically Endangered for this species by a South African conservation assessment of mammals. The database on bat roosts compiled by bat groups, as well as the collective experience of local bat researchers and amateur bat workers, was invaluable in the exercise to red list bat species during the above-mentioned national conservation assessment of mammals. 
 
Residential houses where bats frequently roost including populations of the threatened Large-eared Free-tailed Bat are fumigated. In order to address this threat, bats KZN holds regular workshops for the pest control industry aimed  
at informing practitioners how to undertake non-lethal bat evictions. 
 
With the growing critical ecological and economic importance of bats to tropical natural ecosystems and agro-ecosystems worldwide, recent research efforts in southern Africa have begun to investigate the impact of bats as agents of biocontrol of pest insects in agricultural ecosystems. A recently completed study identified the potentially significant role of two species of molossid bats in controlling pest insects in sugar cane monocultures in Swaziland. A similar project is currently underway in subtropical macadamia orchards in northern South Africa. 
 
Aside from some successes, bat conservation in southern Africa still has a long way to go in order to properly understand and mitigate the many threats that face our bats, from habitat destruction due to population growth and afforestation to widespread use of agricultural and household pesticides and human disturbance of important key bat roosts. We believe that public education should become a primary focus; the battle will be won only by winning the hearts and minds of the majority of our population by convincing them of the critical ecological role played by bats and the economic benefits which ensue. 
 
Links: 
Bat Interest Group of KwaZulu-Natal (Bats KZN) 
Gauteng and Northern Regions Bat Interest Group 
 
 

Recommended Reading 

 
Additional Links: 
 
Farm Radio 
News article on the First BCI Summit on African Bat Conservation 
Bracken Bat Cave and Caves and Karsts Webcasts by BatsLIVE 
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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