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Vikash Tatayah, Conservation Director for the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF), has confirmed that the official government endorsed cull of the threatened Mauritian flying fox (Pteropus niger) is officially over; at least for this year.

Mauritius flying foxes killed as a part of the government endorsed cull. © Zahirah Abdooraman
Mauritius flying foxes killed as a part of the government endorsed cull ©Zahirah Abdooraman

While the official cull has ended, thousands more are thought to have been illegally killed – and the illegal killing continues. While we will never know the true number of bats killed, experts state there is no doubt that the government’s target to kill 20,000 threatened Mauritian flying foxes was exceeded. Vikash is very concerned that the bats are in dire straits as the cyclone season has begun.

The government approved the cull in hope that fewer bats would help reduce damages to fruits like mangoes and litchis in orchards and boost revenue for fruit farmers. Prior to the cull, conservation leaders in Mauritius and around the world took a stand and voiced serious concerns over the decision by the Mauritian government to conduct the cull, especially as it was based on questionable science that was contradicted by new research and extensive expert opinion.

“This decision sets a dangerous precedent – it could be one of the first times that culling of a globally threatened species has been authorised against all the scientific evidence and when there are more effective alternatives available,” said Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

Bat Conservation International (BCI) joined with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission and many others in asking the government to reconsider their decision. Thousands of BCI members and other dedicated conservationists from Mauritius and around the world voiced their concerns. The IUCN even sent a delegation to discuss with the government and halt the impending cull (which failed to end the cull).

Sadly, these combined voices, logic, science, and recommendations were not heeded.

Constructive and viable solutions are needed in Mauritius. Negotiations and plans to mitigate the damage from the current cull and to ensure it does not happen in the future are underway. An island-wide survey is needed to confirm the number of survivors. With the support of BCI and others, the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation is undertaking an education and awareness campaign to counter the misinformation that has been spread. This will be kicked off with an education officer being placed on the ground in January 2016. Further, MWF is drafting a motion to the IUCN to prevent this from happening again, anywhere in the world. BCI has agreed to be a co-sponsor of the motion, which will be presented at the 2016 World Conservation Congress.

Unfortunately, the threats to bats continue to grow and it is expected for the number of globally endangered bats to grow as well. There are over 1,330 species of bats and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species currently have identified 78 species as Endangered or Critically Endangered. Under BCI’s board-approved strategic plan, a global initiative has been launched to proactively work to prevent the extinction of bats. The needs are great and BCI recognises that they will not be able to be engaged on all endangered species initiatives and are asking the world to make proactive conservation of bats, especially globally endangered bats, a top priority.

We live in a time of unrest and uncertainty with human population growth and the increasing impacts on our environment from climate change and the increasing rate of loss of native habitats. Scarce resources all too often results in greater conflict between people and wildlife. Effective conservation demands work with people to hear and understand their concerns and develop viable solutions. If we fail to take into account the needs of people, we risk further crises like we are seeing in Mauritius.

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