I am publishing an article written by an EXPERT… a real one! Because the Mauritian Population has turned into biologists, ecologists and conservationists overnight! Let’s hear whats someone who studied conservation and who has years of experience says. Unfortunately scientists have little or no value in a country run by politicians…
Take the time to read:
‘Pa pe fer enn exterminasion! Pe zis kontrol popilasion sov souri-la…’
As somebody who is completely opposed to the bat culling, for robust reasons (and not mere assumptions), I have tried to stay away from the negative comments that my fellow Mauritians have written online or have voiced out in videos. But it is time to accept that these comments are the best sources of information to understand the local misconceptions that need to be addressed.
The comment quoted above is one that I have seen too many times. Now I invite anybody that suggest that the bat culling is just a population control, to please show me that degree or qualifications in ecology/zoology/conservation science that proves they are actually stating these opinions based on actual knowledge. Since they are making comments on population biology concepts, I am really curious of how much they really understand of the subject to be stating such big ‘assumptions’ like they are THE connoisseurs.
Because, yes! Controlling a species and completely exterminating it, is not exactly the same thing. But if you have a minimum of knowledge and expertise, you will know that one can lead to the other i.e. population control can lead to the disappearance of a species. Because it leads to a decrease in the number of individuals and not all species populations are resilient to such disturbances.
Not all animal species are the same. Some take months, while others take years to reach maturity. Some reproduce several times in a year while others reproduce only once. Some produce several babies at a time while some produce only one at a time. Some are found widespread across a continent while others are found in only one small location such as one small island. Some are facing imminent threats like habitat loss while others are doing just fine.
One needs to understand the biology of a species and the threats that it faces before making assumptions about the consequences of a population control. And for a species like the Mauritius fruit bat, the cull is indeed like a death sentence. Particularly since the population size is unknown and the cull is being done without transparency.
Is the Mauritius fruit bat just a vulnerable species?
Such perceptions echo the lack of knowledge among several Mauritians. You cannot do the cull and at the same time prevent the species from being threatened. The fruit bat is already threatened of extinction. The word ‘vulnerable’ should not be interpreted as the English word. ‘Vulnerable’ is a red list category that indicates the conservation status of a species. There are eight IUCN Red List Categories and species that are listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable and are all described as being threatened, meaning they are at risk of becoming extinct.
One does not kick a species when it is already down
The fruit bat was thus already facing several pressures prior to the cull: its assessment in 2013 projected a 30% decline in the population in the next 21 years mostly due to habitat loss and future cyclones. As people are complaining of seeing more bats, it does not justify the assumption that their numbers have increased dramatically. It is more likely a sign that there is a lack of food in the native forests and feeding on unripe fruits are good indicators of such a phenomenon, as the fruit bats are known to prefer ripe fruits. They will resort to eating unripe fruits only in cases of food shortage. So we have a species that was already ‘down’, and that already needed conservation attention. Now, add on that a cull and future cyclones that are projected to increase in number and intensity and the dodo will soon have company in its grave.
And if people think, we can simply save some in a cage in order to prevent the disappearance of the species, then that again is a lack of knowledge. When we do conservation, we do not only want to protect a species but it is also about protecting its functional role and maintaining the interactions it has with other species. Caged-fruit bats cannot pollinate flowers and disperse seeds in the wild and thus cannot contribute to the maintenance of our native forests which in turn are important for air purification, soil protection and preservation of water supplies.
By Fabiola Monty
Junior Professional at IUCN
International Union for Conservation of Nature