Despite widespread protests by conservation groups and citizens, Mauritius will start culling its native Mauritius fruit bats (Pteropus niger) tomorrow. These bats are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
According to a press statement released by Mauritius’s Ministry of Agro Industry and Food Security today, culling of 18,000 bats will begin on Saturday, November 7.
The culling will be carried out from 6 PM to 6 AM in state forests — which includes national parks, nature reserves, mountain reserves, and river reserves – in collaboration with the Police Department and the Special Mobile Force.
Media reports speculate that the bats will be killed using shotguns.
The statement warns the public not to enter any state forest lands until further notice.“The Ministry will not be held responsible for any incident which may occur as a result of non-compliance with this communique,” the statement said.
While the Ministry did not spell out duration of the culling, conservationists speculate that it will be done over three weeks as planned by the Ministry earlier.
According to Mauritian media reports, the cull will be possible due to a new law that was passed recently — the Native Terrestrial Biodiversity and National Parks Bill — which allows “controlling” or culling of any species that has attained “pest” status “in the national interest”.
The Mauritian government believes that fruit bat populations on the island have increased to over 90,000, which makes them a pest. By culling 18,000 bats, the government hopes to reduce damages to mango and litchi fruits in orchards, and boost revenue for fruit farmers.
However, conservationists have called this decision “unacceptable and disgraceful”. According to experts, the bat cull is not backed by any scientific evidence.
“The implementation of a cull will very likely result in an up-listing of the species from Vulnerable to Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, which will damage the reputation of Mauritius as a world leader on conservation,” members of the Species Survival Commission of the IUCN said in a statement in October.
This article was first published by Mongabay.com on 06 Nov 2015.
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