Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Rota poachers attack fruit bat colony

Rota poachers attack fruit bat colony

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Division of Fish and Wildlife has discovered another incident of illegal hunting at another Mariana fruit bat maternity colony on Rota.

In a statement issued yesterday, the division said the poaching incident was discovered during the course of routine bird surveys on the morning of Dec. 24, 2009.

“[About] 25 to 50 fruit bats were witnessed flying overhead. Fruit bats are generally only active at night unless disturbed. Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists conducted a survey of a nearby roost site and found fresh footprints, shotgun shells, and a fresh fruit bat carcass riddled with shotgun pellets, but no live fruit bats remained,” DFW said.

At least 222 adults and 26 juvenile fruit bats were known to inhabit this roost before the poaching incident.

This is the sixth poaching event at a fruit bat colony on Rota in the last year and a half; the previous events occurred in June, October, and November of 2008 and October of 2009.

Maternity colonies are where fruit bats gather for breeding and infant-rearing.

“Hunting at colonies kills many fruit bats at once and severely inhibits the ability of the fruit bat population to recover,” DFW said. “However, research has shown that if the fruit bat population is not hunted, it can begin to recover. Rota has the last viable population of fruit bats in the southern Marianas. The recovery of the species in this region is dependent on recovery and persistence of the population on Rota.”

There has been a moratorium on hunting in the CNMI since the 1990s and in 2005 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Mariana fruit bats in the CNMI as threatened due to an alarming decline in the fruit bat population.

“The only hope for the recovery of the fruit bat population in the CNMI is for the people to become involved and support the ban on hunting. There is still hope for the recovery of the fruit bat if the people of the CNMI work together to stop illegal hunting and trade of fruit bats in the Marianas,” DFW said.

The Mariana fruit bat-a medium-sized bat found only in Guam and the CNMI-is known as “fanihi” in Chamorro.

Currently, fewer than 100 individual Mariana fruit bats remain on Guam and a fluctuating population of 1,100 remains on Rota. In the northern islands (all islands north of Farallon de Medinilla) fewer than 5,000 individuals remain. On Saipan and Tinian, few individuals are known to inhabit or visit these islands.


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