Inter-island travel of the Long-nosed bat confirmed
Last Tuesday, January 15th 2013, during a bat research session in one of the important bat caves on the eastern part of the island of Curacao, local bat researchers of the PPR-ABC (PAP: Programa pa Protehé Ratonnan di Anochi di islanan ABC) recaptured and released two Long-nosed bats (“Lepto’s”) which were previously tagged on Bonaire. This finding signifies a major breakthrough in understanding the population dynamics of this key species for the ABC-islands. After more than 4 years of continuous work on Bonaire and 1 year of work on Curacao and Aruba, we got the first two animals that show a behavior that could be common for the species in this set of islands: they can switch islands for food by flying across the sea. Lepto’s are together with the local Glossophaga species key stone species of terrestrial ecosystems of the southern Caribbean as they are the sole pollinators of all columnar cacti on the islands, which in turn are a major food source for the local fauna.
The current bat research activities are part of a multi-year bat research and conservation plan. A specific part of the bat research and conservation plan is to acquire more knowledge on the population dynamics of the Long-nosed bat of the Lesser Antilles. Until last Tuesday it was only hypothesized that these bats might travel between the ABC-islands and the Paraguaná peninsula (Northern Venezuela). The capture of the Bonairean Lepto’s confirmed that there is at least a connection between populations on Bonaire and Curacao.
The PPR-ABC is a joint effort for the conservation of the bats species and consists of teams of local researchers and volunteers from a variety of backgrounds for each island. This joint effort was started in March 2012 by senior bat experts Fernando Simal of Stinapa Bonaire and Dr. Jafet Nassar from the Venezuelan research institute IVIC, during a workshop on bat research and conservation. The PPR-ABC is a member of the Latin American Network for the Conservation of Bats RELCOM. The Curacao-team consists of scientists and rangers of Carmabi Foundation, and volunteers such as a veterinarian and a nature photographer.
The Lepto’s have been tagged by ringing them on their forearm with coded rings. The code constitutes the letter of the island followed by a unique number that reflect the number of bats ringed. Lepto JNB 2046 was ringed 2.5 years ago and Lepto JNB 0577 was ringed in November 2011 on Bonaire. Although this finding constitutes a major breakthrough, many critical questions still remain unanswered and continued research on all three islands is necessary to understand and protect these very important and threatened mammals.