Mariana fruit bats threatened with extinction
Saturday, October 10, 2009
The United States Attorney for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands and the CNMI Department of Land and Natural Resources announced today that poaching on Rota is threatening the Mariana fruit bat with extinction.
The Mariana fruit bat (or the fanihi, as it is known locally) has been part of the Chamorro culture for centuries. When the bats were hunted by traditional means, their population was stable. With the advent of firearms, however, their numbers have declined drastically. The Guam and CNMI fanihi are listed as an threatened species under the Federal Endangered Species Act. It is a violation of federal, Guam and CNMI law to kill them.
Mariana fruit bats roost in maternal colonies, made up mostly of females and their pups, as well as a few juvenile and breeding males. Adult male bats roost in small bachelor colonies or individually. There are only about 100 fruit bats left on Guam. Until this year, there were approximately 1,700 on Rota, in five maternal colonies. Since 2008, a small gang of poachers has been attacking the maternal colonies, slaughtering females and their babies. If this continues, the Rota fanihi will soon be extinct, and a symbol of Chamorro life will be gone forever.
In June 2008, half of the Fanlagon maternal colony was destroyed by individuals using 12-gauge and .410 shotguns. It is estimated that 45 females and juveniles were killed. In June 2008, the Liyo colony was also attacked. This has resulted in the bats changing their flight path to and from the colony site. They now fly far out over the ocean, often in heavy winds, expending energy that should go to sustain their young. Mothers return less often to feed their pups during the night, or fail to return at all, resulting in the neglect and abandonment of the babies.
In October 2008, the As Dudo maternal population was destroyed by poachers using 12-gauge and .410 shotguns. According to CNMI wildlife biologists, some 65 fanihi, about 90 percent of the colony, were killed.
In November 2008, the Sumac maternal colony was attacked, and 70 percent of the females and juveniles were slaughtered, again with .410 and 12-gauge shotguns.
Only four days ago, on Oct. 5, 2009, the Lempanai colony was attacked and approximately 30 females and juveniles were killed.
A species cannot survive if its breeding grounds, its breeding females, and its young, are killed. In the last 14 months, half of the fanihi population on Rota has been destroyed. If the people of Rota want their children and their children's children to know and appreciate these gentle animals, they need to help stop this slaughter.
If you have any information about the identities of these poachers, please call (670) 236-2980, (670) 233-0938, CNMI Crime Stoppers (670) 234-7272, or Guam Crime Stoppers (671) 477-4357. (PR)