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Fiji Time: 12:11 AM on Tuesday 22 April

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Bats need help

Tevita Vuibau
Tuesday, October 16, 2012

SERIOUS concerns are being raised about the declining numbers of the only two insect feeding species of bats in the country.

These concerns are emerging after a workshop by NatureFiji-MareqetiViti, the National Trust of Fiji, University of the South Pacific and Dr Topa Petit, from the University of South Australia.

"The populations of the insect feeding species seem to have declined dramatically, and individuals roost in a few caves only," Dr Petit said.

"Insect-feeding bats have a very important ecological role in insect control, including the removal of agricultural pests and insects implicated in human disease; it would be tragic to lose them."

Dr Petit says cave-dwelling bats are very fragile and sensitive to disturbance and appear to have become extinct from Viti Levu already.

"Many people do not know that Fiji hosts six species of bats, five of which are threatened with extinction."

"These bats are the only native mammals of Fiji and they have important ecological roles, so Fijians should be very proud of their bats," she said.

In Fiji four flying fox species have a role in the pollination and seed dispersal of numerous native species of plants, many of which important to people, including timber species.

Dr Petit said work was being done to publish an educational story about bats for children.