Mauritius has once again declared open season on flying foxes. Orchard owners consider the giant fruit bats to be a pest, and the government has called for 10,000 to be killed by Christmas. The cull could lead to the extinction of the species. Please tell the Mauritian government to stop the killing NOW.
Conservationists are struggling to stop the killing: “The slaughter is completely unjustified,” says Vikash Tatayah of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.
The government claims that throngs of flying foxes descend on mango and lychee orchards, often stripping the trees bare. It therefore intends to have 10,000 flying foxes killed.
One year ago, it had already initiated a “controlled cull” of 20,000 flying foxes – during which no less than 30,398 were confirmed killed.
While the government claims that they now number 65,000, experts agree that the population is considerably lower. A further cull could drive the species to the brink, as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warns. The Mauritius flying fox, Pteropus niger, which is currently listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, could soon become critically endangered. A cyclone or an extended drought could then wipe them out.
A study by the University of Bristol in the UK debunked the orchard owners’ complaints: evidently the flying foxes were responsible for only around 11 percent of the damage to fruit crops. Orchard mismanagement had a far greater impact. Placing nets around the trees could protect them against flying foxes and birds.
Proponents of the cull ignore the fact that the Mauritius flying fox – the island’s largest endemic mammal with a wingspan of 80 cm – is a vital pollinator and seed disperser. A mass killing at this time of year would hit pregnant and nursing females hard, leaving orphaned juveniles no chance of survival.