Apt.# 8 Lady Chancellor Apts,                                                                St. Anns, Port of Spain, Trin...
ChiropteraMany people consider bats one thing; “if you’ve seen one bat you’ve seen them all,” is acommon assumption. This,...
in Central Trinidad, for example, house huge populations recorded at some 11 species of bats,numbering somewhere in the vi...
LITTLE MASTIFF BAT                                                    One of our several beetle specialists. This bat     ...
The GREATER WHITE-LINED BAT                                                        (above) feeds on mosquito-sized insects...
Bats Need A Place to Rest and Reproduce                                                        Important seed-            ...
Some foliage roosting species                                                                     fashion “tents” by bitin...
Fruit and Nectar feeding bats                                    Pollination                                    It is impe...
Bats Are Important Seed DispersersBats plant thousands of seeds annually in Trinidad and Tobago. If you like to see trees ...
This ripe Figuier fruit (fig)                                                         dropped by a bat clearly shows      ...
The Macconnells BatA family of Macconnells Bats (Mesophylla macconnelli) snuggle inside a "tent" fashioned froman Anthuriu...
Sebas Short-tailed Fruit BatThe most common fruit bat in Trinidad and Tobago is a major seed disperser for many importantf...
Some more interesting local bats                                                                        A strobe-lit Great...
Fruit Bats and Fruit Farmers:The so-called “fruit-orchard pest” accusations commonly leveled at local fruit bats are simpl...
Bats maintain healthy forest habitats                          “For this alone, they deserve protection”Bats consume the i...
Fruit bats and ReforestationOne of the most important ecological roles played by Cecropia, or Bois Canot, is as pioneerpla...
Conclusion - Bats Need Protection95% of Trinidad and Tobago’s bats are important natural pest-control agents, and highly e...
BibliographyDalling, James W., and Thomas A. Brown. "Long-Term Persistence of Pioneer Species inTropical Rain Forest Soil ...
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  1. 1. Apt.# 8 Lady Chancellor Apts, St. Anns, Port of Spain, Trinidad Home: 624-2223 / Cell: 683-6261Ms Candace Leung Woo GabrielMinistry of the Environment and Water ResourcesLevel 26, Tower DThe WaterfrontPort of SpainRE: Draft Wildlife Policy - Section: 1.4.3 Vermin: The Third Schedule of the Conservation ofWildlife Act 1958 (Chapter 76:01) lists species classified vermin.Delisting of Bats as Vermin Species in Trinidad and TobagoMy name is, Geoffrey Gomes. I have recently been appointed to the Bat Specialists Group of theInternational Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): http://www.iucn.orgI am a former Zoological Council Member of the Emperor Valley Zoo’s Management Committee(1985 - 1995), and former Trinidad and Tobago Island Representative at the Society of CaribbeanOrnithology. I have served as Ornithologist on the Cabinet appointed, Wildlife ConservationCommittee (WLCC) of Trinidad and Tobago through the last five Government administrations.During my 2008 tenure on this Committee, I proposed to the WLCC Board, an amendment to theTrinidad and Tobago Conservation of Wildlife Act, regarding the delisting of bats as “vermin”species in Trinidad and Tobago wildlife legislation. This long overdue proposal to amend thevermin status of bats was accepted by the WLCC, and it was decided that this initiative wouldjoin the many other proposed amendments to Trinidad and Tobago Wildlife Policy thatgovernment and various stakeholders are currently addressing.There are 67 different species of bats recorded in Trinidad and Tobago, representing nearly 70%of all local mammalian fauna. In 2010, I co-founded with my colleague, Daniel Hargreaves, thebat research and conservation organization known as, Trinibats. Our website: www.trinibats.com.We also manage a popular “Trinibats” facebook page which informs interested parties about ourwork, showcasing Trinidad and Tobago’s amazingly diverse bat fauna through photographs andeducational information. The Trinibats Team conducts annual research expeditions in Trinidad,and is currently cataloging the bats of Trinidad and Tobago.All information and images provided herein, are the intellectual property of Trinibats, and theirassociate researchers and photographers. Reproduction or distribution is strictly prohibited.www.trinibats.com 1 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  2. 2. ChiropteraMany people consider bats one thing; “if you’ve seen one bat you’ve seen them all,” is acommon assumption. This, however, is far from the truth. Bats constitute 1/5 of the world’smammalian species; there are over 1,200 different kinds. All bats are members of the mammalianorder, Chiroptera, meaning, hand-wing. Bats are the only mammals capable of true flight. A bat’swing consists of skin membrane wrapped around the upper arm, forearm, wrist, and hand of theanimal. The bones of the hand and the four finger bones are greatly elongated but light andslender, providing support and flexibility to the wing membrane in flight. The bat uses the sharp,exposed claw of its thumb to cling to surfaces or, along with the hand-wing, to maneuver a fruitor other food item while hanging upside down. The hand-wing for which bats are named, is theone attribute all the world’s bats have in common.There are two suborders of bats in the world, the Megachiroptera, and the Microchiroptera. Theflying foxes (so called because of their dog-like faces) of Africa, India, Australia, etc, aremembers of the Megachiroptera. These bats, for the most part, do not echolocate. The bats ofCentral / South America, and Trinidad and Tobago, are members of the Microchiroptera, aseparate and distinct suborder. We should not confuse the two suborders, because they behavequite differently. Microchiropteran bats like ours do echolocate, and that’s why many of our batshave strange appendages on their faces; that’s just the sonar equipment and gadgets they need forthe serious business of navigating and foraging in the dark, and not crashing into things. Our batsare diverse, and so are their diets. A few local bat species hunt frogs, fish, rodents, and evenbirds; two local species of bats drink the blood of mammals and birds, respectively. However, outof Trinidad and Tobago’s 67 species of Microchiropteran bats, the vast majority (95%) controlinsect-pests and disperse the seeds of important forest trees, including many popular (amonghumans) fruit trees.Bats are Natural Insect-Pest Control AgentsInsect-eating bats consume a minimum of half their weight in potentially harmful (i.e. to humansand crops) insects every night. Most insect-eating bats in Trinidad and Tobago consume largequantities of moths, beetles, flies, cicadas, stink-bugs, and leaf hoppers (Kunz et al., 2011). Anaverage-sized insectivorous bat at 10 - 14 grams can routinely consume hundreds of mosquito-sized insects an hour, or at least half its body weight of insects per night. A pregnant or lactatingfemale can more than double that intake of insects to over 100% of her body weight to providefor the additional energy requirements required for pregnancy and nursing. Nonetheless, even athalf its body weight, that is 5 grams of insects per night, or 1.8 kg (4 pounds) of insects per yearfor a single average sized bat .When you consider that the average lifespan for a bat in the wildcan be 7 or 8 years, long lives for small mammals, we are talking about literally thousands ofmetric tons of insects being checked by bats in Trinidad and Tobago annually. The Tamana Caveswww.trinibats.com 2 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  3. 3. in Central Trinidad, for example, house huge populations recorded at some 11 species of bats,numbering somewhere in the vicinity of 500,000 individuals, 75% of these being insectivores.Conservatively speaking, these bats are collectively consuming a staggering 675,000 kilograms(>300,000 lbs) of insects every year. Many of these insects include moths and beetles, the larvalstages of which (caterpillars and wood-borers) are known to be major threats to agriculture andcommercial forestry. The significant role insectivorous bats play in agricultural pest control mustbe obvious, especially when these numbers are taken into consideration. Bats also feed oncockroaches, stink-bugs and katydids, or bush crickets. Studies in the United States indicate thevalue of insect-pest control services provided by a particular bat species also present in Trinidad,the Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis), to agriculture, ranges from 2 - 29% of thecrop. (Cleveland et al., 2006). Another recent study calculated that a colony of just 150 BrownBats (Eptesicus sp.) consumes approximately 800,000 beetles, 158,000 leaf-hoppers, and335,000 stink-bugs per year (Kunz et al., 2011). These studies strongly suggest that bats doindeed play a vital role in protecting crops from damage, and in reducing the costs of pesticideuse to farmers and society. The critical roles played by Trinidad and Tobagos bats in mosquitopest-control and their subsequent impact on potentially deadly illnesses such as Yellow-Feverand Dengue Fever, also deserves wider recognition. The islands numerous varieties of insect–eating bats consume so many insects; logic dictates that they must be helping to control manyinsect-borne diseases, including those that affect human beings directly. Eradication andprevention methods for these and emerging diseases are typically aimed at the vectors, thusinsectivorous bats are an inexpensive and natural means of supporting man-made pest controlefforts.Here Are Just a Few of Trinidad and Tobago’s Many Insect-Eating Bats DAVY’s NAKED-BACKED BAT One of Trinidad’s many moth specialists. The larval stage of a moth is a caterpillar. As every farmer and horticulturalist knows, moth caterpillars are major pests on commercial crops. An efficient consumer of moths like the Davy’s Naked-backed Bat, therefore, should be considered a friend to all local farmers.www.trinibats.com 3 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  4. 4. LITTLE MASTIFF BAT One of our several beetle specialists. This bat species can be seen every dawn and dusk speedily traversing the open sky, sometimes careening near buildings in their quest to consume at least half their body-weight in flying insects, usually beetles, during every single outing. Beetle grubs are major agricultural pests. The Mastiff Bat is one of the bats that commonly roost under the galvanize roofing of buildings, because trees with natural folds and crevices in their trunks that usually provide their shelters, are now in very short supply.LITTLE BIG-EARED BATThis bat includes Bush Crickets andCockroaches in its diet. It operates instealth mode while hunting, keeping it’secholocation calls to a minimum. Insteadof using echolocation calls, these batslisten for their prey. They use their short,broad wings to fly slowly, as they employtheir oversized ears to listen for, and homein on, the courtship calls of their insectprey, or even the footstep sounds insectsmake as they walk around on vegetation.Researchers from the University ofMichigan found that these bats devourmore bugs than birds at organic coffeeplantations. Helping to control insects pestslike katydids and leaf eating beetles(Williams et al., 2008).www.trinibats.com 4 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  5. 5. The GREATER WHITE-LINED BAT (above) feeds on mosquito-sized insects. This bat is often seen flying up and down forest paths hunting small flying insects during the daylight hours.Spix’s Disk-winged Bats use the moistened pads at the bases of their wrists and toes, to adhereto the inside walls of the tube-like, unfurled leaves of heliconia (seen here) and banana trees.These little bats eat at least half their weight in mosquito-sized insects every night in Trinidad.www.trinibats.com 5 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  6. 6. Bats Need A Place to Rest and Reproduce Important seed- dispersers and pollinators, these Geoffroy’s Hairy- legged Bats include fruit, nectar, and insects in their diets. This group is roosting in a cave ceiling. Caves provide good homes for some bat species Most bat species in T&T, however, roost among the foliage of forests and gardens, not in caves. This family of Great Fruit-eating Bats (left), with females suckling grey-coloured pups, are roosting under a coconut palm. These bats are very important seed dispersers for a huge variety of fruit trees in both islands.www.trinibats.com 6 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  7. 7. Some foliage roosting species fashion “tents” by biting the midrib of leaves, forcing the sides to fold into a tent-like shelter where the bats can spend the daylight hours resting. This Gervais’s Fruit- eating Bat (above) has bitten the mid-rib of a leaf to form a “tent” where it roosts. This bat disperses the seeds of Figuier, and other canopy fig trees that are very important food sources for other local wildlife.This bat and its relatives disperse the seeds of the important forest regenerating tree, Cecropia, orBois Canot, and many more tree species. Even though they are usually associated with caves, most bat species in Trinidad and Tobago do not roost in caves. The vast majority of species need tree- hollows like this one (left) in a large Silk Cotton Tree to offer them sanctuary. Whole colonies of bats have been wiped out on private land in Trinidad and Tobago over the last 60 years, legally, according to their vermin status. Large hollow trees, caves, foliage, and other roosts filled with hundreds or thousands of helpful bats have been imprudently destroyed by poison, fire, and other diabolical means on private land in T&T many times over the years, usually through an irrational fear of “vampires,” or some other ill-advised notion. Invariably, these private estates and land holdings lie adjunct to State and other lands that naturally benefit from the consistent nightly “seed rain” deposited by fruit bats, especially so on tracks of disturbed lands in desperate need of reforestation. With lifespans averaging about 8 years, bats are relatively long lived compared to other small mammals, and a single fruit bat can pollinate the flowers and plant the seeds of hundreds, if not thousands of trees in its lifetime.www.trinibats.com 7 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  8. 8. Fruit and Nectar feeding bats Pollination It is imperative to a tree that it avoids fertilizing itself, so nectar-feeding bats like this Greater Long-tongued Bat photographed at a hummingbird feeder in Tobago, partner with many species of forest trees to ensure viable pollination of their flowers. Trees can’t walk so many “hire” bats to transport pollen from the (male) flower anthers to the (female) flower stigmas of other trees of the same species. The night-shift equivalents of hummingbirds, nectar bats insert long tongues (seen here) into flowers to collect payment (nectar) for the pollination services they provide. When bats visit a flowering tree for nectar, they usually get covered with pollen. As this bat (left) searches the flower cluster of a Silk Cotton Tree in northwest Trinidad for nectar, its face, wings, and belly get painted bright yellow with the tree’s pollen, which the bat will then deliver to the female flower parts of another Silk Cotton Tree that is flowering at the same time. Bats also pollinate Bois Flot, Calabash, Locust, Royal Palm, Cashew, Wild Chataigne, Pois Doux, Yellow Pois, Yellow Mangue, and many more trees in Trinidad and Tobago.www.trinibats.com 8 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  9. 9. Bats Are Important Seed DispersersBats plant thousands of seeds annually in Trinidad and Tobago. If you like to see trees carpetingthe hillsides, then bats are working for you! Nearly all of the trees that bats pollinate and plantproduce fruits that humans use; the fruit trees they plant also feed fruit-eating birds (eco-tourismbenefits), agouti, lappe, quenk, deer (hunters benefit), monkeys, and other wildlife. Here are justa few of the trees bats regularly plant all over T&T: Wild Tobacco, Pomerac, Hog Plum, CaratPalm, Royal Palm, Balata, Fustic, Chenet, Serrett, Figuier, Acoma, Kiskidee, Seaside Almond,Seaside Grape, Guava, Jamaican Plum, Sugar Apple, Star Apple, Paw Paw, Sapodilla, SacredFig, Sour Sop, Wild Cashima, L’Epinet, Angelin, Bois Bande, Sapucaia Nut, Mammee Sapote,Tonka bean, Mango, Peewa, and many more trees. A Great Fruit-eating Bat (Artibeus lituratus) flies off with a forest fig (Ficus spp.). Unlike birds which tend to be perching, or stationary foragers, fruit bats are mobile foragers that defecate or drop seeds in flight far away from parent trees. This is very helpful to the parent tree and sapling alike, making bats some of the m o s t e ff i c i e n t s e e d dispersers of all local animals, and crucially important to the entire forest regenerationprocess. Trinidad and Tobago wildlife legislation can no longer simply allow private land ownersto destroy entire colonies of fruit bats, or their many insect-eating cousins, simply becausepeople do not understand the important functions these very helpful animals perform every night.Even more sobering should be the fact that local species of bats usually produce only a singlepup per season, with only one, sometimes two seasons per year, and are thus, extremelyvulnerable to population crashes due to the misguided actions of human beings who do not knowthe crucial roles bats play in the ecology of all forest habitats in Trinidad and Tobago.www.trinibats.com 9 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  10. 10. This ripe Figuier fruit (fig) dropped by a bat clearly shows its tooth impressions. Some bats swallow small seeds as they eat hanging fruit, and defecate them in flight away from the parent tree. Other bats fly with whole fruits to another tree-roost location where they eat it in safety, once again, dropping the seeds far away from the parent tree when they’ve finished eating. Sometimes bats drop seeds by mistake, as did the one carrying this Figuier fruit, before eating it. Either way, the treesprouts up far away from its parent, which gives the emerging sapling a better chance togerminate and grow.Different kinds of bats play diverse roles in the ecology of tropical forests, each genus of fruit-eating or nectar-sipping bat being important to different groups of plants. The Sebas Short-tailed Fruit Bat (see below) is a vital disperser for pioneer and early successional plant species,but not necessarily to more mature forest trees. For example, Sebas Short-tailed Fruit Bats(genus, Carollia) do not tend to include figs (pictured here) in their diets, and hence are not animportant factor in the dispersal ecology of this species-rich group of canopy trees. In contrast,however, some of the Seba’s Short-tailed Fruit Bat’s most common leaf-nosed relatives, bats ofthe genus Artibeus, which includes 3 species in Trinidad, do indeed eat figs, and disperse theirseeds widely (Fleming, 1987). These fig-eating bats are, therefore, very important contributors tothe dispersal ecology of this species-rich group of canopy trees collectively referred to bybiologists as, figs. It is important for all Trinidadians and Tobagonians to realize how many localbirds, game animals, and other fruit-eaters relish figs because it is one of the few fruit groups thatare available in various stages of ripeness throughout the year in local forests. A list of animalsknown to feed on figs in Trinidad and Tobago would include many species, and experiencedtropical birders are well aware of the attractive forces a fruiting fig tree exerts on the avifauna. Awealth of small fruit-eating birds, most of them brightly coloured, and of particular importance tothe ecotourism industry, are drawn to these fruiting trees like magnets. Troops of monkeys, largerbirds like pawi, corn birds, Ramier, etc., knock considerable quantities on the ground where lessagile creatures like agouti, lappe, quenk, etc. also eat them (Forsyth and Miyata, 1984). Between10 - 15 species of local fruit bats are also known to disperse the seeds of figs in Trinidad andTobago, including the Macconnell’s Bats featured on the following page. All of these bats arehelping to feed other wildlife when they disperse the seeds of fig trees.www.trinibats.com 10 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  11. 11. The Macconnells BatA family of Macconnells Bats (Mesophylla macconnelli) snuggle inside a "tent" fashioned froman Anthurium leaf in the Bush Bush Sanctuary in southeast Trinidad. Efficient seed dispersersand pollinators, these bats include figs, and other fruit, pollen, and nectar in their diets.www.trinibats.com 11 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  12. 12. Sebas Short-tailed Fruit BatThe most common fruit bat in Trinidad and Tobago is a major seed disperser for many importantfruit trees. As described above, this bat is a champion at reforesting disturbed areas. It is also oneof the most common bats to take up residence in the ceilings and attics of abandoned or occupiedhouses, churches, schools, and other buildings, sometimes making life difficult for humanbeings. Small populations don’t do much harm really, but large populations can be a problem.There are several procedures and devices that our regional colleagues have been applyingsuccessfully over the last few years that the Trinibats Conservation Team www.trinibats.com isinterested to introduce locally. These include educational programs in urban and ruralcommunities, focusing on bat-proofing procedures for new and renovated buildings. Forsituations where buildings are already occupied by bats, and aside from the strategic sealing ofpotential access points, we would advise the installation of bat-exclusion devices (BEDs), whichare designed and constructed specifically for the particular situation, that allow the bats safepassage out of the building at night, but prevent their ability to re-enter the area. Following, or intandem with evictions of this kind, artificial “bat houses” are installed at the top of tall poles highoff the ground and away from buildings; these ‘bat houses” give the bats somewhere else to go.The bats are not simply evicted then, but also provided an appropriate place to roost, and still goabout their business of eating insects and planting trees during the night without makingnuisances of themselves. A win win for all involved, except the insects.At left (below), a Seba’s Short-tailed Fruit Bat chews fruit as it flies away to widely scatter theseeds of a guava tree in a Trinidad forest. At right, a female Seba’s suckles her pup at her breast.www.trinibats.com 12 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  13. 13. Some more interesting local bats A strobe-lit Greater Fishing Bat is photographed capturing a fish with its clawed feet, transferring it to its mouth, then flying off to a night roost to eat it in safety. Greater Fishing Bats also hunt insects in the forest at night. Greater Fishing Bats are indigenous to both Trinidad and TobagoThe hole at the base of this termite nest at left (below) has been carved by a male PygmyRound-eared Bat to provide a shelter for his family. You can see the family group peeping outof the hole in the image at right. Pygmy Round-eared Bats eat grasshoppers, bush-crickets,cockroaches, and other insects. Photographed in the Bush Bush Sanctuary, SE Trinidad.www.trinibats.com 13 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  14. 14. Fruit Bats and Fruit Farmers:The so-called “fruit-orchard pest” accusations commonly leveled at local fruit bats are simply notaccurate. Local species of fruit bats find fruit by smell not by vision, and only ripe fruits emit a scent; noserious fruit farmer is going to leave his commercial harvest to ripen on a tree when it would by then befar too late to bring to market. Much of the negative reflex responses of fruit farmers to fruit bats arebased on misinformation and superstition. Many people also confuse the behaviour of local fruit bats withthat of Old World fruit bats, commonly known as “flying foxes.” The flying foxes of Africa, India,Australia, etc., do not echolocate and are visually oriented animals; their behaviour is, therefore, verydifferent to that of the fruit bats from Trinidad and Tobago that generally localize fruit by using theirsense of smell. The wildlife conservation laws of Trinidad and Tobago must no longer be guided bymisinformation and misunderstandings that have nothing to do with how local bats behave. The ecologyof both islands suffers when bat conservation is ignored.Bats Are Not Disease Carrying Pests:Records of bat disease transmission in Trinidad and Tobago are rare, with perhaps one exception,paralytic rabies. The implication of vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) in rabies virus transmission is welldocumented in Trinidad, but not Tobago as this island is vampire bat free. The Anti-Rabies Unit of theMinistry of Food Production functions to keep this disease under control by culling of the vampire batpopulation, an activity which has been conducted since the 1930’s. However, since then the rabies viruspositivity rates for this species has declined from roughly 3% to less than 1% (Seetahal, VeterinaryDiagnostic Laboratory. personal communication, 2013). Nevertheless, due to the association between thevampire bat and rabies, unfortunately all bats have been stigmatized as deadly disease carriers andvermin.On the other hand, ironically, recent evidence suggests that vampire culling actually has the oppositeundesired effect of increasing the prevalence of the rabies virus in the affected colonies (Streicker et al;2012). Additionally, it is well noted that one of the major factors that account for zoonotic disease(disease transmissible from animal to human) transmission is the encroachment of humans into forestedareas with disruption of animal habitats and animal displacement forcing increased animal to humancontact.The “House Bats” Problem:As stated previously, the biggest problem bats pose in Trinidad and Tobago is their propensity for roostinginside people’s homes, or in churches, schools, and other buildings. Small colonies of bats living under agalvanize roof really do not pose a problem, but bats living inside ceilings, or people’s living quartersshould not be tolerated. They don’t belong there; bats should have their own roosts. The solution to theseproblems lies in education, and proper building and repair practices. There are methods of “house bat”eviction, including the installing of devices to ensure their continued exclusion that our colleagues in theregion have been using successfully for the last few years. Further, following all evictions from buildings,artificial bat houses are installed high off the ground so the bats have somewhere else to go. The Trinibatsteam is interested to introduce these procedures and devices to Trinidad and Tobago; however, it isdifficult to source funding for bat conservation projects such as these when the laws of the land stilldesignate bats as vermin. The vermin status bats have suffered under for the last 60 years has donenothing to alleviate the “house bat” problem in T&T. The Trinibats Team, suggests another approach; onethat works for human communities, for the bats, and for the health of our forest habitats and wildlife.www.trinibats.com 14 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  15. 15. Bats maintain healthy forest habitats “For this alone, they deserve protection”Bats consume the infructescence of Cecropia, or Bois Canot, digest pulp derived from theenlarged, fleshy perianth, and defecate the fruits. Passage through the bat’s gut removes theperianth and all or part of the mucilaginous (sticky) layer surrounding the fruit of Cecropia,thereby reducing the adhesion of fruits with one another. Thus, because bats defecate in flight,the fruits from a single defecation are spread over an extended area of forest floor. Therefore, batdispersal of Cecropia provides efficient dissemination into large gaps and primary forest. Thoughbat dispersal is not necessary for seed germination, the process of passing through the bat’s gutincreases seed survival and subsequent germination. Fruit structure plays a significant role inseed longevity, and seeds build up over time in a ‘seed bank’ on the forest floor.This photograph (above) illustrates how fruit bats repair a patch of damaged forest. UndisturbedSeasonal Evergreen Forest in northeast Trinidad, can be seen behind the orange blossomingImmortelles. In front of the Immortelles (Erythrina sp.) from left to right can be seen the areathat had been cleared only months before of mature forest similar to the unbroken jungle behindthe flowering Immortelles. All of the trees in the foreground, in front of the Immortelles, arepioneer species (Bois Canot or Cecropia), that have sprouted from seeds deposited by fruit bats.The other tall tree in front of the Immortelle at left is also a pioneer species (Bois Flot or Balsa),with seeds dispersed by the wind, but with flowers that are pollinated by bats in search of nectar.www.trinibats.com 15 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  16. 16. Fruit bats and ReforestationOne of the most important ecological roles played by Cecropia, or Bois Canot, is as pioneerplants in disturbed areas. An individual Cecropia can yield fruits for 4–5 months, and somespecies of the genus produce seeds capable of germinating after 4 or 5 years of dormancy; this isthe significance of the nightly “seed-rain” delivered by fruit bats. As a result of this productivity,seeds of Cecropia are often the most common in soil seed banks in both primary and secondaryforests; in some cases, constituting 50% of the soil seed bank in some areas. Because of theabundance of seeds in the soil, as well as the rapid dispersal of them by fruit bats into newlydisturbed areas, regeneration of forests in gaps is facilitated by species of Cecropia, Bois Canot,throughout most of Trinidad and Tobago.Crucially, the trees of Cecropia often produce the first shade and litter which enables latersuccessional species to germinate and establish seedlings in disturbed areas. Although Cecropiaspecies have little economic value, they appear to play an essential role in initial stages of plantsuccession after disturbance; Cecropia, or Bois Canot, often provide the microhabitat needed forthe growth of economically important food and timber trees, thus regenerating important canopyspecies like Crappo, Cedar, Cypre, Guatecare, etc. Some of the local bats known to disperseCecropia, or Bois Canot, in T&T, are Artibeus jamaicensis, Carollia perspicillata, andPlatyrrhinus helleri. Other larger bats play an important role in moving the diaspores ofsecondary forest species into primary forest and in transporting the larger seeds of primary forestinto secondary forest. The Great Fruit-eating Bat, Artibeus lituratus, for example (describedabove), consumes the seeds of secondary forest species, as well as the fruits of the primary forestspecies. The seeds of these species are relatively large, but this bat is capable of transportingfruits and seeds almost as large as it is.Cecropia, or Bois Canot, have evolved features that allow them to remain dormant in the soilseed bank until conditions become favorable for seed germination. These features make itpossible for species of Cecropia to play an essential role in forest regeneration after disturbance.The occurrence of stands of bat-dispersed Cecropia in many large and small gaps throughout theNeotropics reflects the fruit adaptations of this ecologically successful pioneer species (Lobovaet al., 2003). Moreover, since bats disperse more seeds than birds (primarily to disturbed areasand consisting primarily of pioneer species), they are likely to play an important role insuccessional and restoration processes among habitats as structurally and vegetationally differentas, old fields, cacao plantations, and forest (Medellin and Gaona, 1999)www.trinibats.com 16 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  17. 17. Conclusion - Bats Need Protection95% of Trinidad and Tobago’s bats are important natural pest-control agents, and highly effectivepollinators and seed dispersers. Many insectivores consume between 50% - 125 % of their body-weight in insects every night. These insects include many types of moths, the larval stages ofwhich (caterpillars) are great agricultural pests. Insects taken include huge amounts of beetles,the larval stages of which are wood-borers and similarly destructive pests to agriculture andforestry. Many bats also consume huge quantities of bush crickets, flying termites and ants(rainflies), cockroaches, bush bugs, and mosquitoes. And, as everybody knows, mosquitoes arepotential carriers of diseases that can be deadly to human beings.Many of Trinidad & Tobagos bats are fruit-eaters, responsible for more seed dispersal in tropicalforest systems than birds, or any other animal agents for that matter. Their unique lifestyleinvolving defecation in flight while commuting between their feeding grounds and day roosts,places bats among the most effective long distance dispersers of tropical seeds. The mostcommon fruit bat in Trinidad is Seba’s Short-tailed Fruit Bat (Carollia perspicillata). A singleSeba’s Short-tailed Fruit Bat can disperse as many as 60,000 fruit seeds in one night, with eachsquare meter of forest floor receiving between 12 and 80 seeds annually (Fleming, 1988). Batsplay diverse roles in the ecology of Trinidad and Tobago’s forests, and each genus of fruit ornectar feeding bat is important to different groups of plants. Studies conducted in Trinidad andelsewhere indicate that frugivorous bats play an extremely important role in the regeneration offorests in disturbed habitats, and help to maintain plant species richness in tropical forests(Fleming, 1988). Nectivorous and frugivorous bats also play important roles in the pollination ofmany important flowering trees and shrubs in Trinidad and Tobagos forests.Yet, these highly efficient insect-controllers, seed-dispersers, and flower-pollinators, enjoy littleor no protection in these islands. Worse, according to the Trinidad and Tobago Conservation ofWild life Act of 1958 (Chapter 76:01), all bats are categorized as “vermin.” Creatures designatedvermin can be legally destroyed on private land, whether they are individuals or entire colonies.For all bats to be considered vermin in this day and age is to ignore all evidence to the contraryregarding their ecology and behavior as has been uncovered over the last half century. Moreover,since fruit-eating bats together with insectivorous bats (i.e. 95% of T&T bats) are now fullyprotected in most countries of the world, this law is clearly out of step with current internationalnorms in this regard. Further, while T&T laws still list bats as vermin, the fact that bats are nowfully protected by the Wildlife Protection Act, administered by the Natural ResourcesConservation Authority of Jamaica, should be enough to elicit a review of our current legislation.Herein, we hope to have made a convincing case for the removal of bats from the list of verminspecies in the new wildlife legislation being considered for Trinidad and Tobago. Vampire batpopulation controls should remain the purview of NADC. Private land owners should report batroost concerns for confirmation of vampires, not be legally entitled to destroy helpful bat species.Geoffrey Gomes Daniel HargreavesTrinibats Co-founder Trinibats Co-founderIUCN - Bat Specialist IUCN Bat Red List Authoritywww.trinibats.com 17 Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad
  18. 18. BibliographyDalling, James W., and Thomas A. Brown. "Long-Term Persistence of Pioneer Species inTropical Rain Forest Soil Seed Banks." The American Naturalist 173.4 (2009): 531-535.Department of Plant Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.Fleming, Theodore H. Fruit Bats: Prime Movers of Tropical Seeds. Bats. Volume 5, No. 3 Fall1987Fleming, Theodore H. The short-tailed fruit bat: a study in plant-animal interactions. Universityof Chicago Press, 1988.Forsyth, Adrian. and Miyata, Kenneth. Tropical nature / Adrian Forsyth and Kenneth Miyata ;illustrations by Sarah Landry Scribner, New York : 1984Kunz, Thomas H., et al. "Ecosystem services provided by bats." Annals of the New YorkAcademy of Sciences 1223.1 (2011): 1-38.Lobova, Tatyana A., et al. "Cecropia as a food resource for bats in French Guiana and thesignificance of fruit structure in seed dispersal and longevity." American Journal of Botany 90.3(2003): 388-403.Medellin, R. A. and Gaona, O. (1999), Seed Dispersal by Bats and Birds in Forest and DisturbedHabitats of Chiapas, Mexico. Biotropica, 31: 478–485. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-7429.1999.tb00390.xStreicker et al; (2012) ecological and antrhropogenic drivers of rabies exposure in vampire bats:implications for transmission and control. Proc. R. Soc. B published online 13 June 2012.Williams-Guillen, K., I. Perfecto & J. Vandermeer. 2008. Bats limit insects in a neotropicalagroforestry system. Science320:70.www.trinibats.com Helping to conserve the bats of Trinidad