Majority of island flying foxes are on the brink

Once upon a time, there was a tiny piece of paradise on Earth, where unique animals and plants were living their day by day mostly peaceful. As, nothing is perfect, not even the paradise, sometimes, there were some trouble, like long droughts. Many animals would die, but species would survive. Quite often, like once a year, there was some pretty strong winds with rain (aka cyclones).  But still, it was a paradise surrounded by blue and calm lagoons full of a kaleidoscope of marine wildlife. The number of unique species on this land was above average per its land mass. The place was steaming with some amazing creatures like oversized pigeon that walked on the ground, colourful geckos or giant tortoises of different shapes. These animals, and many others, depended on the many unique plants of their land, and of course, the plants depended on them for pollination and for moving their seeds around. This paradise was created and perfected over millions of years.

 

One day, not to long ago, the paradise was discovered by a species that believes that it is the one superior to all others. And this day marked the beginning of the end of the paradise. Unfortunately, this is not a story but it is history. True history. The paradise was not fictional, but real. It is a tiny island in the western Indian Ocean. After the species that calls itself ‘wise man’ (Homo sapiens) appear in the history of this paradise, it took a blink of a second (compared to the geological time of the island) to destroy most of its forest and lead many unique species to extinction.

 

But the wise man never learns from his mistakes. This narrative of Mauritius is like many other small isolate islands around the world (and some island continent as Madagascar or Australia). Worst, adding salt to the injury the trail of destruction continues. A few days ago, we learnt that majority of island flying foxes are threatened with extinction, while others are already extinct. Flying foxes are stigmatise just because they are bats although they survive mostly only on fruits and never drink blood. Even their cute eyes and bright and fluffy fur are not enough to go against the bashing they suffer. Most people do not realise that the flying foxes are very important for the maintenance and survival of the tropical forest, especially of isolated islands of the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Instead, we hunt them for fun, sport or meat.

 

Mauritius flying fox resting during the day

A cute Mauritius flying fox resting during the day

Like for climate change, we all need to act to save biodiversity for the ensure that many species can survive and for our own survival. For the flying foxes, we need to be aware if the tropical fruits we are eating are not endangering them. This will be a good starting point.

 

References:

F. Rijsdijk et al. 2011. Mid-Holocene (4200 kyr BP) mass mortalities in Mauritius (Mascarenes): Insular vertebrates resilient to climatic extremes but vulnerable to human impact. The Holocene 21 (8): 1179-1194.

E. Vincenot, F.B.V. Florens, T. Kingston (2017) Can we protect island flying foxes? Science 355 (6332): 1368-1370.