22 November 2011

SBMA conducts bat count to preserve endangered species

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) recently completed a population survey of fruit bats, one of the most popular species endemic to this free port zone, to promote the conservation of these nocturnal mammals.

Led by the SBMA Ecology Center, which dubbed the survey as “Count Me In,” the survey engaged the participation of various stakeholders in the Subic Bay area to increase public awareness on the importance of fruit bats, or flying foxes; encourage stakeholders’ participation in the conservation program; and maintain the integrity of the forest to sustain their population.

The survey determined an estimate of the population of the flying foxes through exit count, and determined other exit routes of the flying foxes to serve as sampling locations.

“The last time we surveyed the number of bats here, it was around 10,000. But that number has dwindled due to human activities in the area,” noted Ecology Center chief Ameth Dela Llana-Koval. “There are still some people who hunt these bats for food, and some of these bats get killed when they roost at another place.”

According to the exit count for this month, only 2,070 bats exit to the Morong and Mariveles areas in Bataan during night time.

The biggest number of bats recorded on exit was around 14,000 in April of this year, while the smallest number exiting the Subic Freeport was only 400 in the month of September.

“We conduct surveys two times a year, trying to figure out their flight pattern,” Koval said. “The good thing about it is that when they come to roost here in the Freeport, they are very well protected. But when these bats roost outside our protective blanket, they are hunted and eaten as delicacies.”

This is where the idea of “Count Me In” came into play, Koval added, stressing that the public needs to be aware of the situation of these animals.

For the bat count project, the SBMA invited students and employees in the Freeport, limiting their age to 12 years old and above. The participants registered a month prior to the activity and paid P300 each to cover expenses for the training and orientation seminar for the bat-counting activity inclusive of the official “Count Me In” T-shirt that served to promote awareness of the project.

Only those that passed the training were allowed to join the bat survey on November 10-11.

The bat-counting activity was facilitated by the Ecology Center and undertaken by 10 teams at designated sampling stations. Each team was composed of an Ecology Center staff who acted as team leader, and five members who did the exit counts at specified sampling locations.

All data collected in the survey were collated by the Ecology Center. After the activity, the participants were put in the list of Ecology Center volunteer bat-counters who will be contacted periodically for future bat monitoring activities here.

Currently, the Subic Watershed and Forest Reserve is one of the few remaining undisturbed lowland dipterocarp forests in Luzon and serves as a habitat for various endemic wildlife species, among them the fruit bats or flying foxes.

A large roost of flying foxes composed of two species, Acerodon jubatus and Pteropus vampyrus are currently located adjacent to the Subic Bay International Airport, while a small roost of Acerodon jubatus is located in the Naval Magazine area.

Flying foxes, which have an average lifespan of up to 25-30 years, are the only mammals capable of true flight. They are nocturnal animals that travel to feed on fruits during the night, although some, especially mothers that nurse their young, hibernate and stay on their roost.

These mammals are known to be one of the most important agents of natural forest regeneration through flower pollination and seed dispersal. Unfortunately, these animals are endangered and hence need a high degree of conservation. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: Fying foxes roost at the Subic Freeport forest. Although one of the most important agents of natural forest regeneration, these nocturnal animals are endangered because of growing human activities in their natural habitat.