Mammalian Biology

, Volume 80, Issue 4, pp 273–277 | Cite as

Near threatened? First report of unsuspected human-driven decline factors in the Ryukyu flying fox (Pteropus dasymallus) in Japan

  • Christian Ernest Vincenot
  • Lina Koyama
  • Danilo RussoEmail author
Short Communication


Japan hosts the largest population of the threatened Ryukyu flying fox (Pteropus dasymallus), which, in Taiwan, suffered a drastic decline leading to local extinctions and, in the Philippines, remains only on three small islands. Conservation of the species in Japan is therefore crucial. National and international assessments have been based only on local anthropogenic factors, such as habitat degradation, electrocution on power lines, and accidental entanglements.

Using face-to-face interviews of farmers of the Yaeyama islands (southwestern part of the Ryukyu archipelago), we discovered that other significant human-driven causes of decline were overlooked in assessments. Most importantly, we report here for the first time on the illegal killing of this species by farmers because it feeds on crops. The bat has been killed by intense poisoning, beating, and netting. Other cases of illegal infringement of animal welfare principles by the general population were also encountered (i.e. confinement and mistreatment) but could not be quantified. Furthermore, we also determined the historical use of flying fox meat as a food source, which has also never been documented before. Finally, we identified emerging threats that were previously neglected in the assessments of the species’ conservation status, namely predation by feral or semi-feral cats and dogs, whose populations have been booming in recent years. These unexpected factors, especially the ongoing killing of P.d. yayeyamae, call into question the IUCN downlisting (EN→NT) decided in 2008, when poisoning campaigns were actually culminating, and lead us to recommend the initiation of conservation actions (particularly population monitoring), education campaigns, as well as the provision of technical assistance to farmers in need of it.


Agriculture Culling Fruit bat Megabat Poisoning Wildlife conflict 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ancillotto, L, Serangeli, M.T., Russo, D., 2013. Curiosity killed the bat: domestic cats as bat predators. Mamm. Biol. 78, 369–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chavez, A., 2012. Yaeyama stray cats steal the show on the beaches of Taketomi. The Japan Times, 24/11/2012.Google Scholar
  3. Cox, P.A., 1991. Flying foxes as strong interactors in South Pacific island ecosystems: a conservation hypothesis. Conserv. Biol. 5, 448–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Craig, P., Trail, P., Morrell, T.E., 1994. The decline of fruit bats in American Samoa due to hurricanes and overhunting. Biol. Conserv. 69, 261–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. DoD, 2010. Japan Environmental Governing Standards. Department of Defense. Issued by the Headquarters, U.S. Forces Japan.Google Scholar
  6. Don’t Shoot Bats (DSB), 2014. Environmental threats of shooting and electrocution. Website of the NGO Don’t Shoot Bats (accessed 08.12.14).conservation.html (accessed 08.12.14).
  7. Esselstyn,J.A., Amar, A., Janeke, D., 2006. Impact of post-typhoon hunting on Mariana fruit bats (Pteropus mariannus). Pac. Sci. 60, 531–539.Google Scholar
  8. Fujita, M.S., Tuttle, M.D., 1991. Flying foxes (Chiroptera: Pteropodidae): threatened animals of key ecological and economic importance. Conserv. Biol. 5, 455–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Heaney, L, Rosell-Ambal, G., Tabaranza, B., Izawa, M., 2008. Pteropus dasymallus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. Website of the IUCN (accessed 28.11.14).Google Scholar
  10. Isa, N., 2013. 1900 (translation: “Serious crop predation by fruit bats, 19 million yen damages on citrus plantations”). Ryukyu Shimpo, 13/01/2013 (in Japanese).Google Scholar
  11. Mickleburgh, S., Hutson, A.M., Racey, PA, IUCN/SSC Chiroptera Specialist Group, 1992. Old World Fruit Bats: An Action Plan for Their Conservation. IUCN Publishing, ISBN 2-8317-0055-8.Google Scholar
  12. Okinawa Prefecture, 2012a. 11 (translation: “11th Wildlife Protection Plan”). Website of Okinawa Prefecture (in Japanese; accessed 28.11.14).Google Scholar
  13. Okinawa Prefecture, 2012b. translation: “Revised Edition of the Okinawa Red Data Book”). Okinawa Prefecture (in Japanese; 23.08.12).Google Scholar
  14. Okinawa Prefecture, 2014. translation: “State of Agriculture in the Yaeyama region”). Website of Okinawa Prefecture (in Japanese; accessed 28.11.14).Google Scholar
  15. Palmeirim, J.M., Champion, A., Naikatini, A., Niukula, J., Tuiwawa, M., Fisher, M., Yabaki-Gounder, M., Thorsteinsdóttir, S., Qalovaki, S., Dunn, T., 2007. Distribution, status and conservation of the bats of the Fiji Islands. Oryx 41, 509–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. RDB, 2012. In: (Japanese Red Data Book). Japan Integrated Biodiversity Information System.Google Scholar
  17. Scheffers, B.R., Corlett, R.T., Diesmos, A., Laurance, W.F., 2012. Local demand drives a bushmeat industry in a Philippine forest preserve. Trop. Conserv. Sci. 5, 133–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2014. Commonwealth Conservation Advice for Pteropus melanotus natalis (Christmas Island Flying-fox). Department of the Environment, Canberra, Australia.Google Scholar
  19. Tidemann, C.R., Yorkston, H.D., Russack, A.J., 1994. The diet of cats, Felis catus, on Christmas Island, Indian Ocean. Wildl. Res. 21, 279–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Vincenot, C.E., Collazo, A.M., Wallmo, K., Koyama, L., 2015. Public awareness and perceptual factors in the conservation of elusive species: the case of the endangered Ryukyu flying fox. Glob. Ecol. Conserv. 3, 526–540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Welbergen, J.A., Klose, S.M., Markus, N., Eby, P., 2008. Climate change and the effects of temperature extremes on Australian flying-foxes. Proc. R. Soc. B 275, 419–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Yaeyama Mainichi, 2012. ? (translation: “Are our parks paradise for stray cats? Questioning the moral of pet owners”) (unsigned). The Yaeyama Daily, 20/09/2012 (in Japanese).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Ernest Vincenot
    • 1
  • Lina Koyama
    • 1
  • Danilo Russo
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Social Informatics, Graduate School of InformaticsKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.Wildlife Research Unit, Laboratorio di Ecologia Applicata, Sezione di Biologia e Protezione dei Sistemi Agrari e Forestali, Dipartimento di AgrariaUniversità degli Studi di Napoli Federico IIPortici, NaplesItaly
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK

Personalised recommendations