Flying fox bats have a wide distribution from Australia and south-east Asia to the western Indian Ocean, but surprisingly are not found on mainland Africa. Two species are recorded on Tanzania’s offshore islands.
Pemba Island, 40km off the Tanzanian coast is home to the Pemba flying fox, which was first described in 1909. This species is distinctive for its bright chestnut-orange fur.
It feeds mainly on fruit, but may also consume nectar, pollen and leaves.
Pemba flying fox facts:
- Pemba flying foxes have been said to have dog-like facial features and can weigh in at around half a kilo
- They roost during the day in trees rather than caves in groups of up to 850 individuals
- Unlike insectivorous bats they do not use echolocation but vision to locate fruit
The Pemba flying fox has traditionally been hunted by local Pembaris as a source of food, originally using simple traps on long sticks, and more recently with shotguns.
Reports in the early 1990s indicated that the species was at risk of extinction as a result of hunting and habitat loss, and consequently the species was listed as Critically Endangered.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has supported the Department of Commercial Crops, Fruits and Forestry on Pemba Island to undertake a range of conservation activities over the past decade.
These have included working closely with the community and monitoring of bat roosting sites. The result has been a remarkable conservation success that has seen the bat population recover dramatically.