Pteropus niger commonly known as the Mauritian flying fox is the largest terrestrial mammal endemic to Mauritius belonging to the megabat suborder, the Megachiroptera – the largest bats in the world. The Mauritian flying fox has a wingspan measuring up to 80 cm and can range in weight from 40 to 800 grams. Common features of flying foxes are a long and silky pelage with a dense underfur, no tail and relatively small ears. There is no difference in colour or length between males and females, although females have a pair of mammae located in the chest region. As opposed to other types of bats, they do not use echolocation but instead rely on a strong sense of smell and eyesight.
The Mauritian flying fox can often be seen flying in most parts of the country at dawn and dusk when the bats go out and come back from foraging. All known roost sites are in the forests, mostly in the mountain ranges. They prefer secure places with restricted access, the leeward side of mountains and they avoid areas that have full exposure to the sun. The roosting sites can consist of a few hundred trees, with five species commonly used, most of which are exotic (Eucalyptus spp, Tecoma, Araucaria spp, Bois noir and Bois de natte). The canopy structure and the terminal branches of these trees provide a solid resting site for bats to roost in large groups during the day. Pteropus niger may move from one site to another depending on prevailing winds, food availability and their reproductive cycle, i.e. separate roosts have been observed for mothers and their young and for ‘bachelor bats.
As its other common name suggests, the flying fox relies mainly on fruit for its diet from native plant species and exotic species, found both in the forest and on plantations, small holdings and gardens. The flying foxes also consumes nectar. As such, they are thought to play a role in seed dispersion and pollination and contribute to maintaining plant diversity in the fragmented native landscape of the island.
The local bat is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List and its population is estimated to be around 50,000 individuals. Although there have been increases in recent years due to the absence of cyclones, habitat loss and conflict with farmers has led to the culling of approximately 20% of the bat population. The species became a protected in 1993 under the Wildlife and National Parks Act.
The bats can travel up to 24 kilometers each night in their search for food.
These bats get their name from their fox-like faces and their golden fur.
International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, “IUCN Red List: Pteropus niger”, retrieved from http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/18743/0
Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, “Mauritius Fruit Bat”, retrived from http://www.mauritian-wildlife.org/application/index.php?tpid=30&tcid=81
Kingston, T., Florens, V., Oleksy, R., Ruhomaun, K. & Tatayah, V. 2018. Pteropus niger. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T18743A86475525. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-1.RLTS.T18743A86475525.en.