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Flying Fox

Flying Foxes of the Philippines

A Flying Fox?
The Philippines indeed, has flying foxes, but they are not actually foxes that have wings. Flying foxes are actually bats that look more like miniature dogs with wings.

They belong to the order Chiroptera and the family Pteropodidae. There are nine known species of flying foxes in the Philippines, and one that is believed to be already extinct.

The smallest flying fox
Very little is yet known about this particular flying fox, but it can be presumed that its population is very small, and that the species is probably highly endangered.

It is small and slim with sharp and sleek facial features, has mottled wings and is covered by brown downy fur. Mature males tend to have darker fur and wings than the sub-adults and juveniles, which have light-medium grayish brown and finer fur.

The Mindoro Pallid Flying Fox (Pteropus sp. A) is yet undescribed, but it could possibly be the smallest flying fox in the Philippines. It has been found in Mindoro, in the Anahawin River in Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park, and also in the lowland forest of Tandakan, Mt. Siburan in Sablayan, an area made up of drastic and gradual slopes with riverines in between, near a kaingin area, and in bamboo vegetation. All areas were predominated by trees of the family Dipterocapaceae.

Flying foxes are active species, perching on tall trees in lowland forests. They live as a colony and gather in trees, called roosts. They normally sleep during the daytime unless disturbed, and go out to forage at night.

They feed on fruits of forest trees, and are even known to eat fruits from our backyards and plantations!

As fruit eaters, flying foxes are important dispersers of seeds, pollinators, and facilitators of gene flow of vegetation between island ecosystems. The extended time that seeds are retained in their stomachs aids long distance dispersal, which greatly contributes to forest regeneration.

The greatest threats to the flying foxes are habitat loss, disturbance of roosting area, and hunting for food and for trade. Air guns, shotguns, slingshots, thorny vines, nets and tree snares are used to catch them, but the most destructive of these are nets, since juveniles and those in pregnancy get caught as well.

Statistics estimate that a seasoned hunter can bag as many as 50 flying foxes per month! Studies such as population counts and monitoring have been effective at estimating remaining numbers and rate of decline.

However, more research is urgently needed if we are to stop the extinction of flying foxes. There is still very little known about their habitat, foraging range, roosting behavior, diet and natural history. Information on this would greatly help conservationists assess how the species can be saved.

This article was republished with permission from
haribon foundation
Haribon Foundation: Protecting Nature. Preserving Life.

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