First South East Asian International Bat Conference

Phuket, Thailand (May 7-10, 2007)
Report to Organization for Bat Conservation
Tigga Kingston, PhD, Texas Tech University

1. Conference Summary

The conference was a great success with 128 participants (including 49 students) from 22 countries. The conference featured:

  • 70 oral presentations and 24 poster presentations. Abstracts to be published in Bat Research News.

  • Three forums

    • Status and monitoring of monitoring of flying fox

    • Hunting of bats for bushmeat and medicine

    • SEABCRU priorities

  • Two workshops

    • “Fun with Bats” outreach workshop

    • Bioacoustics workshop


2. OBC Support

Support from OBC enabled a number of regional educators to attend the conference:

Apolinario Carino: Bat Count Philippines.

Renee Lorica: Bat Count Philippines & FFI- Philippines

Andrew Tay: Nature Society (Singapore)

Celine Low: Nature Society (Singapore).


3. Highlights of the Outreach Session

Apolinario and Renee presented different aspects of outreach activities in the Philippines in the Outreach Session. Poli described how the fascinating and colorful annual festivals in many provinces of the Philippines have adopted wildlife themes in recent years, and showed superb footage to illustrate how bat conservationists have been availing themselves of this opportunity. The image of tens of bat-costumed performers dancing through the streets of Negros Island left a lasting impression on the audience. We moved to Boracay Island with Renee, one of the prime international tourist destinations in the Philippines and subject to intensive development that has disrupted native flying fox populations. She detailed the initiatives underway to ameliorate the consequences of development and gave information on the new bat learning center planned for the area.

Highlights from the other presenters in the session included an update from Vilma D’Rozario from the National Institute of Education, and the Nature Society (Singapore). Vilma and her colleagues had attended one of Malaysian Bat Conservation Research Unit Education Workshops (supported in part by OBC) in 2005. They have since developed a “Fun with Bats” module, adapted from the MBCRU “Bat Party”, run by the Nature Society (Singapore) for kids 5-9 years old. “Fun with Bats” has been run four times and reached over 200 primary school children and their families. In addition, they are now developing “bat gardens” to create sanctuaries in schools. Funding from OBC enabled Andrew Tay and Celine Low to attend the conference, key contributors to the “Fun with Bats” initiative. After the Outreach Session, a workshop was held to share the initiative with other outreach workers from across SE Asia (see photos)

In addition, David Brown of Brock University reviewed the status of Pteropus in Thailand and discussed the role of religious structures (primarily Buddhist wats or temples) as sanctuaries. From Hong Kong, Gary Ades detailed an educational model currently underway at the Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden in which the roles of bats as seed dispersers and pollinators is explained to the visiting public through an “bat nature trail” with explicit signage and judicious planting/propagation of bat plants.

4. Launch of the SEA Bat Conservation Research Unit.

At the end of 2006, BAT Biodiversity Partnership awarded funds to T. Kingston to extend the activities of the MBCRU to the regional level, with the establishment of the South East Asian Bat Conservation Research Unit. SEABCRU is a collaboration between academic institutions and NGOs that will provide an organizational framework to coordinate and implement research, capacity building, education and outreach to promote the conservation of South East Asia’s diverse but threatened bat fauna; and specifically to build the capacity of local scientists through internships with Malaysian Bat Conservation Projects.

The SEABCRU was launched at the opening presentation of the conference given by T. Kingston. As part of the conference, a two hour forum was held to identify research and organizational priorities of the SEABCRU. The response was overwhelming, over 70 people attended, including all the key established bat researchers in the region and all the students. Major contributors to the prioritization included: Professor Paul Racey (Aberdeen University, UK); Co-chair IUCN Chiroptera Specialist Group), Dr Paul Bates (Harrison Institute, UK), Dr Allyson Walsh (Lubee Bat Conservancy, USA), Dr Antonio Guillen-Servent (Instituto de Ecologia, A.C., Mexico), Prof Ganapathy Marimuthu, (Maduri Kamaraj University, India), Dr Ibnu Maryanot (Indonesian Institute of Sciences), Dr Greg Richards (Australia),  Dr. Leslie Hall (Australia), Dr Lazaro M. Echenique-Diaz, (Tohoku University, Japan), Dr Kyle Armstrong (Murdoch University, Australia),  Dr. Vitaliy Matveev (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan), Tammy Mildenstein University of Montana, USA).

The priorities identified were as follows:

  1. Networking

All participants strongly advocated the need for a website for information sharing and linking between researchers, and ultimately such would be used to coordinate research in accordance with SEABCRU research priorities. Key characteristics:

  1. Functionally interactive (possibly a Wiki?) – researchers want to be able to interact, post articles, outreach material, chat. Some suggestions for model sites from other organizations were made.

  2. Fast load times: the site needs to be well designed operationally (well coded etc) and not overly “flashy” because many researchers in SEA have poor internet connections and cannot access complex websites.

2. Taxonomic Network

The taxonomy of many bat species in SE Asia is uncertain, yet most species cross multiple borders. Consequently there is a need to coordinate taxonomic effort across South East Asia. Proposed steps to do so were suggested:

  1. Collate data on collections across the region

  2. Establish loan protocol

  3. Travel grants to visit collections

  4. Taxonomic workshop on Java – training + “bring and buy”.

Lead Coordinators: Dr Paul Bates, Harrison Institute, UK, Dr Ibnu Maryanto, LIPI, Indonesia.

3. Flying Fox Conservation Prioritization

As elucidated by many presentations in the conference and two of the forums, flying foxes (species of Pteropus and Acerdon) are under severe hunting pressure in many parts of South East Asia. Yet data on distributions, populations and hunting are few. Priority actions were as follows:

  1. Initiate and coordinate long-term monitoring of Pteropus colonies across region

  2. Assessment of impact of hunting and bushmeat trade

  3. Revision of Old World Fruit Bat Action Plan (IUCN Chiroptera Specialist Group)

Lead Coordinators: Professor Paul Racey (University of Aberdeen, UK, and co-chair of the IUCN Chiroptera Specialist Group), Dr Allyson Walsh (Lubee Bat Conservancy, USA), Tammy Mildenstein (University of Montana, USA, and Bat Count Philippines)

4. Cave-dependent Bat Conservation

Many bat species in the region are dependent on large cave systems (primarily karst) as permanent roosts. Such caves support assemblages exceeding 10 species and numbering several millions of individuals. However, limestone extraction to provide the cement industry, and disturbance at caves by tourists and cave-swiflet nest collectors is having a major impact on populations and diversity. Resolutions:

  1. Develop cave management recommendations that recognize scientific, cultural/religious and economic values of caves AND provide for protection of bats

  2. Instigate programs to monitor populations to assess effectiveness ofmanagement approaches.

Lead coordinators: Dr Leslie Hall & Dr Greg Richards, Australia.

5. Long-term monitoring of forest-dependent insectivorous bats as global climate change bioindicators

Insectivorous bats of the rainforest interior are highly dependent on intact stands of forest. Insect populations are regulated by climatic factors and as a consequence, these bats are predicted to be highly susceptible to the effects of global climate change. Resolution:

  1. To establish a network of long-term monitoring sites, based on the MBCRU protocol in Krau Wildlife Reserve, Peninsular Malaysia.

Lead coordinator: Dr Tigga Kingston, Texas Tech University, USA

6. Outreach and Education

The SEABCRU website will provide an interactive forum for the exchange of materials (up and down-load existing outreach materials such as MBCRU children’s party pack etc) and ideas. Because of the similarity of species across the region, as well as the many of the conservation issues, materials developed in one locality should be relatively easy to adapt for use in another. In the longer term, we hope to secure funds for an international education workshop, similar to those held in Malaysia by the MBCRU.


© 2012 Organization for Bat Conservation