PACIFIC BATS IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION, SAYS RESEARCHER

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SUVA, Fiji (January 31, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---One of the most comprehensive surveys of bats in the Pacific has revealed some species could be facing extinction, a University of the South Pacific (USP) news release says.

International bat expert and USP visiting researcher Dr. Jorge Palmeirim has spent the past five months researching a variety of bat species in Fiji, the release says.

It quotes Dr. Palmeirim, from Portugal's University of Lisbon, as saying: "Bats are essential to the future survival of Pacific rainforests and other terrestrial ecosystems, so these findings are of grave conservational concern. As the only native mammals of Fiji, bats are also an important part of Fiji's natural heritage."

Previous research on bats in the Pacific showed the existence of six different species, the news release said. These were the Pacific Flying Fox, the Samoan Flying Fox, the Fijian Monkey-Faced Bat, the Fijian Blossom Bat, the Pacific Sheath-Tailed Bat, and the Fijian Mastiff Bat.

Although all six species still exist, Dr. Palmeirim said most species are declining as a result of human intervention, including the increased presence of feral cats and deforestation.

He said what was of particular concern is the near-extinction of the Fiji Monkey-Faced Bat, which exists nowhere in the world but Fiji's Taveuni Island.

Also of particular concern is local decline of species in other areas of the Pacific, particularly the Samoan Flying Fox and the Pacific Sheath-Tailed Bat.

Dr. Palmeirim's research will form the basis of recommendations for Pacific governments and non-government organisations, the USP news release said.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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