Culling of flying foxes of Mauritius: the real figures…

Last year I wrote here about the mass culling of a threatened species that was going on in the island of Mauritius in the western Indian Ocean.

In that post, there was still hope that international pressure could help stopping the cull, which as a political decision that took in consideration little or none of the scientific facts and studies.Scientific facts were unanimous against using cull as a management tool for decreasing damage to fruit trees (you can see more details on the previous post and here and here).

Today, finally accounts of culling has been revealed. The number of bats that have been incinerated was nearly 31,000 instead of the initial target of 18,000 – this number is 75% higher than it was first said. And this number only accounts for the animals that were officially cremated. Many animals were not recovered after shooting, some died elsewhere, many babies died of starvation waiting for their mother to return to the roost. There is also the illegal killing that needs to be added – in ‘normal’ years 2,000-3,000 bats were illegally killed by hunters and orchard owners. But 2015 was not a ‘normal’ year, as one could find photos of bats for sale or disposed of in the middle of some of the busiest roads of the country.

Today it is hard to see the Mauritius flying fox in the sky. In a question of 2 months the population dropped by some 50-70%.

The most important question: what was the benefit? It is said planters a decrease of fruit loss of 10%. This is a very tiny improvement. As predicted, culling would not decrease the fruit damage by much because if a resource is abundant and easy to ,access you remove one species, other species will claim the resource. In this case, alien rats, alien birds and robbers. All this small increment in the fruit production reinforces that the damaged that was said by the fruits producers to be caused by the bats were not true.

This story begs two questions?
1. Why hearsay is more important than facts and scientific theories?
2. Bringing a threatened species even closer to extinction is worth this tiny increase in profit of some individuals?

Mauritian fruit bat flying away during a culling operation in 2015
Mauritian fruit bat flying away during a culling operation in 2015

Let me know your views.