Fruit bats such as flying foxes (Pteropus vampyrus and P. hypomelanus) are extremely threatened in Malaysia due to hunting (for food and medicine) and extermination (as agricultural pests). They are often viewed negatively, and are not charismatic flagship species, so there is little motivation to conserve them. Also, the potential of disease transmission from bats to humans is a growing global concern. Yet the decline of flying fox populations could have some serious implications for Malaysia’s forest ecosystems, as well as people’s livelihoods and well-being. Ecologists know that fruit bats provide important ecosystem services through seed dispersal and pollination. However, how do these processes happen? What are the specific benefits to people? How can we communicate to policymakers and local communities that these ecosystem services from flying foxes necessitate their conservation? Can fruit bats and humans co-exist in peace? This project aims to answer some of these questions and provide baseline data to support the conservation of flying foxes in Peninsular Malaysia. It will have a strong applied conservation approach, utilizing both ecological and social studies.
Sheema Abdul Aziz’s Thesis research project was selected by Bat Conservation International for a funding award under the RFP titled Scholarships and Grassroots Grants for Bat-Centric Projects Focused on Critical Conservation Needs.
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