Animal Info - Pemba Flying Fox

(Other Names: Pemba Island Fruit Bat or Flying Fox, Zorro Volador de Voeltzkow)

Pteropus voeltzkowi

Status: Vulnerable


Contents

1. Profile
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Weight, Habitat, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Early Development, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization)
5. References


Profile

The Pemba flying fox is a large fruit bat weighing 400 - 650 g (0.9 - 1.4 lb). Its diet consists of the fruit and flowers of a number of plants. Primary and secondary forest, graveyards and mangroves provide roosting sites. The Pemba flying fox is very social and has been found in large colonies until recently.

The Pemba flying fox is found only on Pemba Island, Tanzania. The island was originally forested, but only remnants of the primary forest remain. Estimates of the status of the Pemba flying fox have varied considerably recently. Studies in 1989 suggested a dramatic population decline, with fewer than 10 individuals being seen, and the species was considered to be on the brink of extinction. However, in 1992, surveys indicated a population in the region of 2400-3600, although it was estimated that the population may have declined significantly in the preceding decade. (Entwistle & Corp 1997)

Habitat loss from deforestation is a major concern, since the last fragments of natural forest are now in danger of disappearing (Seehausen 1991). Pemba islanders hunt bats only for subsistence purposes, not for commercial purposes. Currently, the villagers appear mainly to use traditional hunting methods. If the use of shotguns increases, hunting could become more of a threat.


Tidbits

*** The Pemba flying fox does not appear near human settlements unless large trees are fruiting.

*** The Pemba flying fox is the only bat species endemic to an African country (Altringham 1996)

*** Flying foxes are so-called because of their fox-like faces. They cannot use echolocation. Instead, they navigate using vision and normal hearing.

*** Most flying foxes eat fruit and are also called fruit bats. Fruit bats are ecologically and economically important because they pollinate and disperse the seeds of wild and commercial plants.

*** Pemba Island is home to 4 species of Old World fruit bats (Megachiroptera). However, many villagers are unaware that there is more than one type of bat on the island, which may be a potential source of confusion in assessing the status of the Pemba flying fox (Entwistle & Corp 1997).


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

Countries Where the Pemba Flying Fox Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in Tanzania (Pemba Island) (IUCN 2004).

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

History of Distribution:

The Pemba flying fox is endemic to Pemba Island, Tanzania. This island is located in the western Indian Ocean, 40 km (25 mi) off of the coast of mainland Tanzania and a similar distance from the island of Zanzibar (Unguja). The island was originally forested, but only remnants of the primary forest remain. The vegetation is dominated by plantations of cloves and other spices, although many of the clove plantations have been abandoned and are now dominated by secondary growth forest. Around 1940, there were reports of hundreds of Pemba flying foxes roosting on islands off the southern and northwest coasts of Pemba, crossing at dusk to forage over northern and southern Pemba.

Estimates of the status of the Pemba flying fox have varied considerably recently. Studies in 1989 suggested a dramatic population decline, with fewer than 10 individuals being seen, and the species was considered to be on the brink of extinction. However, in 1992, surveys indicated a population in the region of 2400 - 3600, although it was estimated that the population may have declined significantly in the preceding decade. (Entwistle & Corp 1997)

Apparently as a result of a range of conservation activities, the population had increased to 9000 by 2004 (Entwistle 2004).

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

As long as some patches of natural forest remained and traditional hunting methods were used, the Pemba flying fox seemed to have survived in reasonable numbers. However, the last fragments of natural forest are now in danger of disappearing (Seehausen 1991). Habitat loss from deforestation is thus a major concern.

Bats are hunted only for subsistence purposes (and probably provide an important source of protein to local people), but not for commercial purposes. Currently, the villagers appear mainly to use traditional hunting methods (Entwistle & Corp 1997). They seldom have access to shotguns, but where hunting with shotguns is practiced, it has reportedly had a major impact on the Pemba flying fox. If the use of shotguns increases, hunting could become more of a threat.

Although villagers believe that fruit is damaged by the bats, there is no evidence that the villagers have persecuted the bats as pests.


Data on Biology and Ecology

Weight:

The Pemba flying fox weighs 400 - 650 g (0.9 - 1.4 lb).

Habitat:

The Pemba flying fox roosts in primary forest, secondary forest (generally overgrown clove plantations), traditional graveyards (protected from logging by religious taboo), mangroves and occasionally in isolated trees (Entwistle & Corp 1997).

The Pemba flying fox lives in the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa Biodiversity Hotspot (Cons. Intl. 2005).

Gestation Period:

Probably 4 - 6 months.

Birth Season:

Births have been recorded between June and August (between the rains).

Early Development:

The young of flying foxes become independent at 3 - 6 months (Bonaccorso 1998).

Diet:

The Pemba flying fox eats the fruit and flowers of a number of species of plants.

Behavior:

The Pemba flying fox roosts exposed in large trees.

Social Organization:

The Pemba flying fox is very social and has been found in large colonies until recently.


References

Altringham 1996, Anon. 1995c, Bonaccorso 1998, Burton & Pearson 1987, Cons. Intl. 2005, Entwistle 2004, Entwistle & Corp 1997, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, Kingdon 1997, Mickleburgh 1992, Seehausen 1991


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Last modified: March 5, 2005;

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