Not all heroes fly around with capes, however, in Mauritius, they do fly! Our conservation hero is the Mauritian flying fox also known as Greater Mascarene flying fox or Mauritius fruit bat. This a large “megabat” species is native only to the islands of Mauritius and La Réunion in the Indian Ocean.
With a wingspan of 80cm, the Mauritian flying fox is the largest native mammal on Mauritius, one of several unique species of wildlife on the island.
Flying foxes are crucial to keeping native forests healthy. They play an important role in dispersing seeds and pollinating flowering plants. The bats disperse many species of plants through their faeces. The diet of the Mauritian flying fox consists mainly of fruits. These bats consume roughly 20 species of plants, 18% of which are native to Mauritius. Of those native species, 36% are either vulnerable or rare. Because flying foxes are highly mobile, seeds can be moved to different sites with ease. Seed dispersal also increases the gene pool within forests. Mature trees then exchange their genes with neighbouring trees of the same species and this transfer strengthens forests against environmental changes.
Flying foxes are also very effective as forest pollinators. Pollen sticks to their furry bodies and as they crawl from flower to flower, and fly from tree to tree, they pollinate the flowers. This further reinforces the gene pool and health of native forests.
The survival of flying foxes is extremely important to the Mascarene Island ecosystems, where the reproduction of native plant species is poor. The forests have become highly fragmented, existing today only in small pockets of their original range.
With less than 2% of endemic forest remaining on Mauritius, the superhero bats have their work cut out for them. We are supporting the bats’ mission through a reforestation program that you can get involved in! If you want to get your hands dirty and volunteer to help us with Conserving Biodiversity in Mauritius, click here for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Taryn Ingram-Gillson