By Charlie Tañala
An estimated 25% of the 191 existing bat species in the Pacific islands region are threatened with extinction, according to data compiled by researchers who joined the recent Pacific Islands Bat Forum.
In an Aug. 25 news release from the Australian National University College of Science, researchers highlighted that the region also lacks available information necessary to evaluate the status of a further 15% of bat species.
“[These bat species that live] across Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia [are] collectively the most imperilled in the world,” the news release said.
Data showed that in the last 160 years, 5 of the 9 bat species living in the Pacific Islands have gone extinct. These species continue to be under threat from intensifying land use, invasive species, and human harvesting and are also vulnerable to climate change, which heightens sea levels and increases the intensity of cyclones and heatwaves.
The research group also said the conservation of Pacific Island bats has been largely overlooked, adding that research efforts necessary to target conservation priorities are rare.
“Island endemic bats are a poorly studied group inhabiting some of the world’s most vulnerable habitats, and for which no review of research allocation has ever been conducted,” according to a 2017 study published in the Wiley Online Library.
The first-ever Pacific Islands Bat Forum was held in early August and brought together 380 people from 40 countries and territories to form a new network of researchers, conservationists, and community members dedicated to the survival of these island bats. The online forum was hosted by The Australasian Bat Society, alongside a range of local and regional partners throughout the Pacific region.