Potential Impacts of Climatic Change on the Foraging Efficiency of Species of Bats (Mammalia: Chiroptera)
Sustainable Ecotourism and Conservation of Threatened Harrison’s Giant Mastiff Bat at Mount Suswa Conservancy, Kenya
The globally Vulnerable Otomops harrisoni uses the volcanic cave roosts at Mt Suswa Conservancy and crucial maternity colonies are endangered by expanding ecotourism, human disturbance and resulting pressures on the area’s forests. Mt Suswa, a spectacular mountain with a unique 12 km2 double crater system in Kenya’s Rift Valley, has >10,000 safari visitors annually who come for hiking, camping, wildlife viewing and cave exploration. The Conservancy is however increasingly affected by forest loss and habitat degradation resulting from agricultural expansion, human settlement, overgrazing and uncontrolled visitation to the bat caves. Over time, a degraded environment serves as an inhibitor to outdoor recreation activities central to the lifestyles and wellbeing of outdoor enthusiasts. In an unnatural environment, where cattle, farms and human settlements are an eyesore, the potential impacts on recreation behaviour are most consequential.
This project provides an excellent opportunity to understand and execute proactive intervention measures to achieve sustainable conservation. Establishing how bats use the caves and their population status to improve management of the cave systems while promoting sustainable ecotourism and roost protection is needed. This requires working with local community members catalyse protection of roosts and restoration of local forests as foraging habitat for bats, will lead to immediate improvements to protect declining species from threats. The main aim of this project is to safeguard the sensitive and fragile montane forest habitat, cave roosts and the Vulnerable Harrison’s Giant Mastiff Bat and other threatened cave taxa.
The specific objectives entail to i) estimate the relative abundance of Harrison's Giant Mastiff Bat species within the caves; ii) document the current threats to the bats and caves and to take immediate conservation action and protect caves; (iii) raise awareness to the local communities about the conservation significances of the species and their primary habitats in the ecosystem and (iv) establish a three-year action plan for bat conservation at mount Suswa Conservancy.