Massive bat species returns from the brink of extinction
October 31, 2008
Down from a handful of individuals in 1989, the Pemba flying fox population on the island of Pemba, off the coast of Tanzania, now stands at more than 22,000. The recovery owes to the efforts of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Department of Commercial Crops, Fruits and Forestry (DCCFF) which established new reserves to protect critical habitat for the species and launched local education initiatives to raise awareness of its plight and reduce hunting. Today local residents take pride in protecting the charismatic species, which is endemic to the island and is one of Africa's largest bat species (with a wingspan of five-and-a-half feet).
Bat in flight. Credit E Bowen-Jones FFI
Community-led "Pemba flying fox clubs", which help protect the bat through education and monitoring, have been appearing all over the island, according to FFI. Local groups are now looking at ways to use the Pemba flying fox as a draw for ecotourists, although benefits from the conservation of the species extend well beyond tourism — fruit bats play a vital role as seed dispersers and pollinators, especially on islands.