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International Bat Night: Protecting these species and conserving the ecosystems of the Comoros

Bats are among the most misunderstood animals on the planet. Because they are active at night, we don’t often see the many points of contact between bats and humans, but it turns out that bats are an essential part of our daily lives!

Insectivorous little bats(over 1,000 different species worldwide) eat billions of insects every night: they are the best way to control natural pests, catching mosquitoes and moths that harm humans and destroy crops. The guano produced by bats is rich in nutrients and used to fertilise soils around the world. Large fruit bats and nectar bats pollinate fruit trees by moving from flower to flower and scatter the seeds across the landscape by flying. The seeds can give rise to new fruit or forest trees, and the bats thus maintain a healthy ecosystem.

The Comoros fruit bat © Manuel Ruedi (via
Seychelles dogfish © Anne Laudisoit (via
Livingstone dogfish © James Morgan

There are ten species of bats in the Comoros, eight of which are found in Anjouan: five small insectivorous bats and three fruit bats. Among the fruit bats, the Seychelles fruit bat(Pteropus seychellensis) is easily spotted on the island, as it likes to roost in large groups near fruit trees. The much smaller, grey-brown Comoro bat(Rousettus obliviosus) lives in caves and only comes out at night to feed on nectar. The most emblematic bat of the Comoros archipelago must be the third species of fruit bat: the Livingstone’s fruit bat(Pteropus livingstonii). This large dark bat is only found on Anjouan and Mohéli, where it roosts in small groups in the mountains. It is highly endangered, as the species is losing its natural habitat: the Comorian cloud forests.

GPS tag installation © Dahari

Since 2012, we have been working on the protection of the Anjouan Livingstone’s fruit bat population. Two bat counts per year are carried out to monitor the population and we have set up conservation agreements with landowners who have bat roosts on their fields. These roosts are large, old trees that the landowners have agreed not to cut down so that the bats have somewhere to stay in the future. Since 2018, in collaboration with theUniversity of Comoros and Bat Conservation International, we have been tracking individual bats with GPS collars to understand how these animals use the landscape: where are the important trees for feeding and roosting for the bats? And how do these bats contribute to a healthy landscape?

Livingstone’s fruit bat roost site in Moya-Anjouan, photo © Dahari

This research is needed to enable communities to protect and regenerate bat resources and ensure that this Comorian treasure is preserved for future generations.

Learn more about fruit bat monitoring initiatives!