The flying fox, so called for its large eyes and pointed ears and snout, is not really a fox at all. The other common name for the mammal is fruit bat. It’s the largest of all bats in the world with a wingspan of nearly five feet. Its senses of smell and eyesight are well-developed, and it doesn’t rely on echo-location to catch flying insects for its diet. Its subsists on blossoms, nectar, pollen, and fruit and serves as an important pollination vector in the reproduction of many tropical fruits.
The flying fox is threatened with extinction in much of its habitat, especially on islands in the South Pacific where it is essentially trapped because of its limited flying range. Some islands, like Mauritius, have introduced mass culls at the insistence of farmers whose harvests are reduced by the bats’ consumption. Yet the bats provide the farmers with a critical pollinating service.
In the Marianas, flying fox meat is considered a delicacy, for which a large commercial trade developed. According to Science Magazine, “the dire situation of island flying foxes worldwide calls for effective, science-based conservation strategies to prevent further loss of biodiversity and function.”
Posted April 16, 2017