Pteropus vampyrus, a hunted migratory species with a multinational home-range and a need for regional management


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1. The management of migratory species is challenging because of insufficient data on long-range movement patterns, habitat use, and the impact of anthropogenic pressures (e.g. hunting) throughout their home ranges.

2. We evaluate the current abundance and mobility of the Malayan flying fox Pteropus vampyrus, a threatened fruit bat species of ecological and economic significance across Southeast Asia, using roost site surveys and satellite telemetry. We combined this with data from hunter license sales and population projection models to assess the impact and sustainability of current hunting practices in Peninsular Malaysia.

3. We monitored 33 active Pteropus vampyrus roost sites in Peninsular Malaysia, including eight seasonal roost sites. Roost site occupancy showed considerable temporal variation over the 3-year study period.

4. Hunting activity has more than doubled since 1996, and based on license sales, we estimate that a minimum legal harvest of 87 800 bats occurred between 2002 and 2005. Population models suggest that this level of hunting is likely to be unsustainable given our baseline abundance scenarios of 100 000, 250 000 or 500 000 bats, especially considering that these models do not include culling of Malayan flying foxes as agricultural pests or illegal hunting activities, for which there are no available data.

5. Satellite telemetry of seven adult male bats show that Malayan flying foxes are highly mobile, travelling hundreds of kilometres between roosting sites within a year and occupying home ranges that extend beyond Malaysia to include Indonesia and Thailand. We conclude that focal hunting pressure in Malaysia threatens a regional population of this migratory mammal.

6.Synthesis and applications. This is the first study of its kind on flying foxes in Asia, and illustrates that bats, like other migratory species, urgently require comprehensive protection by regional management plans across their range. P. vampyrus moves across international borders in Southeast Asia. Current hunting practices within Malaysia together with limited protection in other countries may threaten its long-term survival.