Conservation of the Endangered Salim Ali’s fruit bat in Western Ghats, India

Nithin Divakar

Salim Ali’s fruit bat (Latidens salimalii), one of the three rarest bats in the world, is an evolutionarily distinct, monotypic and endangered frugivorous bat species endemic to the southern Western Ghats of India. It is restricted to montane tropical evergreen forests, coffee and cardamom plantations with an altitude range of 800-1,100m. Habitat loss, anthropogenic pressure from the plantations, meat consumption, and use in traditional medicine are reducing the already endangered population of this species. There is inadequate knowledge about the species and many local people have developed a negative attitude towards bats since they have purported links with the recent spillover of the zoonotic disease, Nipah virus, in Kerala. There is also a deficient capacity of the Forest Department staff in effective law enforcement to protect these bats. This project aims to locate and protect the species in its distribution range, investigate the degree of species utilization by the local communities, and undertake conservation education and capacity building programmes to build knowledge on the importance of this species and the ecological services provided by bats in general. Through these holistic approaches, this project will initiate long-term conservation of the non-charismatic and misunderstood bats of the Western Ghats.

Watch the team's reaction to the news of their award: