DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A regional campaign to conserve and protect the colony of local fruit bats dubbed as BATtle Cry: CPR BATS! Conserve Protect Respect BATS! was launched here.
In a press conference on Monday, Norma Monfort of the Monfort Bat Sanctuary and Conservation Park said it is high time to launch a campaign to protect the sanctuary of local bats in the region known as Geoffrey’s Rousette fruit bats (Rousettus amplexicaudatus) found in the Monfort Bat Cave located in Barangay Tambo, Island Garden City of Samal. Geoffrey’s Rousette fruit bats cover 75% of the ceilings and walls of the 245 ft (75 m)-long cave.
The Geoffrey’s Rousette fruit bats (Rousettus amplexicaudatus), were officially recognized by the Guinness World Record in 2010 after a scientific survey conducted by American bat scientists Dr. Merlin D. Tuttle and Dr. David L. Waldien under the auspices of the US-based Bat Conservation International (BCI).
In June 2006, a cave assessment reported a population of approximately more than 2.3 million bats living in the cave located within the private property of the Monforts over the past six decades. The scientists also surveyed a number of the more than 70 caves in Samal known to be shelters of bats and found evidence of intense human hunting of bats for food at caves that once housed a large population of bats
Norma Monfort who is named 2011 Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund Hero added that due to ignorance and misconceptions, “people remain ambivalent about the significance and the enumerable services of bats”. She added that the bats are the major agents of reforestation and also help in mitigating the effects of climate change.
In their study, Mylea Bayless of the Bat Conservation International said bats in Samal Island play a critical role in the pollination of economically-important fruits in the region, such as durian and wild banana.
Bayless pointed out, in the press conference, that there are more than 1,300 species of bats around the world that plays an important role in the health of natural ecosystems and human economies. She said 300 bat species consume vast amounts of insects, including some of the most damaging agricultural pests. Others pollinate many valuable plants, ensuring the production of fruits that support local economies, as well as diverse animal populations.
“Bats are often considered “keystone species” that are essential to some tropical and desert ecosystems. Without bats’ pollination and seed-dispersing services, local ecosystems could gradually collapse as plants fail to provide food and cover for wildlife species near the base of the food chain” said Bayless.
Monfort now eyes to put up an eco-tourism project in addition to the three-hectare Monfort Bat Sanctuary to attract more local and international tourist visiting the region.
“I want to put the Monfort Bat Sanctuary and Conservation Park in the list of tourist attractions in the region not just for business but also to educate people that bats are important in the ecosystem. We should not hate them nor hunt them for food” said Monfort.
The Samal City Tourism Office reported that the number of visitors grew from 520,000 tourist arrivals in 2013 to 1.3 million arrivals in 2017. The Monfort Bat Sanctuary and Conservation Park ranks third out of nine attractions in the island and a recipient of Certificate of Excellence 2014.
Though there is no clear assistance from the local government and no further studies done in connection to the existence of this colony of bats, said Monfort, a Chiropterium, which is a combination of the word “chiroptera” (for hand wing bats) and “torium” from auditorium is being eyed to be built this year. (davaotoday.com)