On Saturday, we got the chance to go into the field with Diana to survey the critically endangered Sheath-tailed bat.
The main outputs of Diana’s research are to 1) raise public awareness about the status of the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat, 2) reduce human interference at roost sites, 3) improve habitat quality at roost sites, 4) reduce potential predators, 5) implement long term monitoring and 6) monitor the relative prey abundance.
Olivia, Rachel and I got to undertake the bat survey in the largest roost on Mahé. It was an adventure even accessing the bat roost with Olivia and I doing our best to keep up with Rachel! I was glad I was wearing my boots. We nestled into a curve in a boulder and got comfortable while we waited…with a host of mosquitoes!
Watching the sunset through the trees while we waited to pick up the bats’ echolocation on the bat detectors was incredibly peaceful, despite the odd mozzie bite. Soon enough, the first of the group exited the roost to do a first fly around before the sun had set. The detectors picked up a regular clicking that turned into a zippy-fart noise when a bat honed in on an insect to hunt! It was quite entertaining the first few times!
I was very impressed with Rachel’s ability to count the bats leaving and entering in order to be able to keep a count of those that were out. I really did try but failed miserably. Rachel got a count of 26, Olivia of 24, and I got….12! The light was very tricky to try and catch the bat’s silhouette in, but I console myself that Rachel is a seasoned user of the bat detector.
There are thought to be only 60 individuals of this endemic and critically endangered sheath-tailed bat. Using bat detectors we counted 25 individuals leaving the roost to feed. This roost is a short distance from a road but is not easy to come across as it is surrounded by very high and difficult to access boulders.
There is support from government departments and local NGO’s to protect this bat and a feeling of pride. A plan for long term monitoring will be put in place following on from Diana’s Fellowship with the help of Rachel Bristol.
Due to pressure from the EDGE Fellow and Darwin project the government has included the bat under the Wild Animals and Birds Protection Act, which means it is now illegal to disturb or kill the bat. This is a fantastic positive step in the protection of this species but this legal protection must be promoted and acknowledged by Seychellois.
Unfortunately, the disturbance at roosts is often by people involved in conservation as they know where the roosts are whilst others are unlikely to. Diana’s work will help increase the awareness amongst the scientific community that disturbance of these roosts is a serious risk to the survival of the species.
Sadly, we are not going to get to see Sylvana’s coral research in action as all her field work has finished. But we have had the chance to discuss some great ideas for her to work with other conservation partners to engage local schools in coral conservation.
I can’t wait to see how everyone gets on with their educational activity!
It is with a heavy heart we board a plane early Monday morning to head back to the UK. We have had such a fantastic trip and learned so much about local conservation work and the hopes of the passionate people involved.
I have met some great contacts and look forward to hearing how everyone’s activity develops and is received by schools, families and the wider public.
We had a beautiful farewell from the Seychelles last night with this breath-taking sunset. It is not a trip I will forget in a long, long time!
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