Rodrigues fruit bat
Of the approximate 1,100 species of bat that live worldwide, the Rodrigues fruit bat was until recently one of the most endangered.
In its native habitat on the western Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues, off the coast of Madagascar, precious little forest remains and the population is vulnerable to the effects of cyclones. Because of the crisis the bats faced in the wild, several individuals were brought to Jersey in 1976 to start an emergency breeding programme. The programme was the first of its kind as this species had never before been kept in captivity, but with the wild population teetering on the brink of extinction, it was imperative that an assurance population was bred to ensure the species’ future. Thankfully, the breeding programme was a success, and now a thriving captive population, spread between many institutions worldwide, safeguards the species’ future should disaster strike again in the wild.
Captive breeding programmes alone are never enough to prevent extinction, but must be coupled with efforts to protect and restore species’ natural habitat as well as education programmes for the local population. Thanks, in part, to the conservation work of Durrell alongside that of local agencies, each of these measures are in place to assist in the protection of the Rodrigues’ habitat, and as a result the wild bats continue to make a steady comeback, although they are still Critically Endangered. Durrell’s success with Rodrigues fruit bats has helped to establish a similar programme for the larger Livingstone’s fruit bat from the Comoros islands, also in the western Indian Ocean.