Indonesia is home to one of the most diverse collections of bats in the world, with approximately 175 species. Yet this phenomenal resource has been scarcely studied, and little is known about the conservation status of most species. This is especially true of Kalimantan, a region that sprawls across most of Indonesian Borneo.
Angela Benton-Browne of the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project in Indonesia and Matthew Struebig of Queen Mary University of London blame this lack of information primarily on two factors: bats are despised as vermin by the public and much of the academic community, and few resource materials and trained people are available to support bat research.
Benton-Browne and Struebig were awarded a BCI Global Grassroots Conservation Fund grant to help address those problems by combining surveys of the region’s bat populations with training for local biologists and students and education for the public.
After conducting training workshops in Kalimantan, it became clear that sustainable bat conservation in the region required a basic field manual in the Indonesian language to supplement the workshops and facilitate bat studies by Indonesian researchers. They developed the first-ever manual and freely distributed it to workshop participants, universities, conservation groups and others throughout the region.
The Kalimantan Bat Conservation Project, with Benton-Browne, Struebig and Indonesia colleagues, conducted bat surveys at six sites. Training Indonesian undergraduates was an integral part of each survey. Six students based their undergraduate biology theses on the research.
The team also conducted three training sessions to teach researchers and students more about bats and how to study them. Participants included researchers, teachers, students and members of a local environmental group, Yayasan Cakrawala Indonesia.
The team cited a great need for scientific literature and teaching resources written or translated into the national language, since many Indonesian researchers and students are not proficient enough in English to fully understand the scientific literature and likely probably put off research or conservation careers as a result. They decided that a booklet on research techniques, based on the training workshops, was feasible for the project.
The training manual has been written in both English and Indonesian with help from Rakhmad Sujarno. The identification keys draw heavily from information in Payne & Francis’ The Mammals of Borneo and from work by the Bornean Biodiversity and Ecosytems Research Program in Sabah.
One of the most important findings of the research in Kalimantan is that harp traps are required to accurately describe bat diversity. The surveys were the first to use harp traps in Indonesian Borneo, and those traps were left with several local institutions.
The Kalimantan Bat Conservation Project was a vital first step in developing a bat-research and -conservation effort in the region. The team especially hopes its field manual will encourage others to continue the work in this diverse region.
BCI’s Global Grassroots Conservation Fund plants and nurtures the seeds of bat conservation around the world. Your support can make a real difference. Support Global Grassroots at www.batcon.org/grassroots.