Conservation of Threatened Harrisons Giant Mastiff Bat at Mt Suswa Conservancy Kenya

David Wechuli Barasa

Bats represent about 25% of global mammal diversity. They are essential in maintaining ecological processes and providing valuable ecosystem services. The globally Vulnerable Harrison’s Giant Mastiff Bat (Otomops harrisoni) uses cave roosts of the Mt. Suswa Conservancy, despite their importance, cave bats remain severely threatened. They are sensitive to the disturbance and destruction of their roosts. The crucial maternity colonies are threatened by expanding ecotourism, human disturbance, deforestation, habitat destruction, and related anthropogenic pressures. This project will establish how bats use caves and their population status to improve the management of the cave systems while promoting sustainable ecotourism and roost protection. We will engage communities to promote and catalyze the protection of the caves. We will train local farmers and pastoralists on roost conservation, gating techniques, monitoring protocols, and capitalizing on cooperative relationships to protect key roosts. Local guides will be trained as part of a robust education and awareness program to enhance messages about the conservation and benefits of our target species and to increase visitation to the Conservancy. We will also develop an action plan for the management of bats. In the wake of COVID-19's negative publicity regarding bats, this project reassures Kenyans that bats are safe and vital to the country's future.