The movement ecology of the Mauritian flying fox (Pteropus niger): A long-term study using solar-powered GSM/GPS tags

Ryszard Z. Oleksy, Charles L. Ayady, Vikash Tatayah, Carl Jones, Paul W. Howey, Jérémy S.P. Froidevaux, Paul A. Racey, Gareth Jones*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
195 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: Flying foxes (Chiroptera: Pteropodidae) are large bats that often roost in the sun, hence solar-powered GPS/GSM devices can track their movements over extended periods. The endemic Mauritian flying fox (Pteropus niger) has recently been subjected to large-scale culling because of perceived damage to commercial fruit, and a consequent reduction in numbers of > 50% since 2015 resulted in its IUCN Red List Status being up-listed to Endangered. Determining its movements will be important for management and conservation, for understanding potential responses to environmental change, and for understanding population admixture. Methods: Twelve bats were tagged with solar-powered GPS/GSM devices in 2014-2016. Tags remained active for up to almost a year (maximum 359 days: average 139 days (males) and 93 days (females)), providing some of the longest-term data on the movement ecology of bats yet obtained. Eight bats were probably hunted illegally, highlighting the scale of unauthorised persecution. Results: Males travelled on average 9 km each night, females 6 km. The nightly distance covered by adults of both sexes was higher in winter than in summer, though the opposite pattern occurred for immature males. These differences are probably related to seasonal changes in fruit availability (adults) and to dispersal by immature males. The maximum distance covered during one night was > 92 km. Home ranges of males averaged 74,633 ha, females 31,072 ha. Core foraging areas averaged 2222 ha for males, 1364 ha for females. Fifty roosts were identified, mainly in forest fragments. As the bats disperse seeds of native plants that form forest canopies, conservation of the bats will potentially maintain and enhance native forest cover, in turn providing roosting sites for the bats. Conclusions: Solar-powered GSM tagging provides unprecedented potential for understanding the movement ecology of flying foxes. Mauritian flying foxes often move between the few remnant native forest fragments, which remain important for their conservation, and have potentially important roles in seed dispersal. Their nomadic movement fits with their panmictic genetic structure. Although their ability for long distance movements, sometimes over short timescales, permits rapid responses to local threats and environmental change, being restricted to Mauritius renders the bats extremely vulnerable to intense culling.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
Pages (from-to)12
Number of pages12
JournalMovement Ecology
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2019

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