By Njoroge Chege, TBA Alumni – Kibale 2012
Flying foxes, commonly known as bats are the second most diverse and abundant of mammals with great physiological and ecological diversity.
Previously unknown to science and considered mysteries, bats play important ecological roles in seed dispersal and pollination, which help to maintain plant communities, and insect control, which limits the distribution and abundance of many pests responsible for spreading human diseases and causing significant economic damages to crops and livestock.
Unfortunately, despite their numerous benefits, poor understanding of their ecosystem benefits, along with negative perceptions and traditional beliefs have often resulted to habitat destruction and direct killing attempts at roost sites.
In order to debunk the myths around these mammals, the Tropical Biology Association Alumni of Kenya (TBAAK) conducted research on their population dynamics and distribution in Mombasa County, Kenya. One of their research findings includes the discovery of approximately 10,000 straw coloured fruit bats (Eidolon helvum) in a roost site at the Uhuru Gardens, opposite the famous Mombasa Tusks.
By involving over thirteen individuals in the research, and collaborating with local stakeholders to create awareness on the issue, this alumni group is making a key contribution towards the development of a community of practice around bat conservation in Kenya.
“There is still a lot to be done in terms of raising awareness on the ecological and economic importance of bats in the project area. This calls for further research and educational outreach to address the identified gaps.”
Njoroge Chege – Project lead