Jersey Zoo plans to replicate bat roost overseas to help species bounce back

The team at Jersey Zoo have plans to recreate their bat roost overseas to help boost the numbers of endangered and rare bats across the world.

They want to replicate their 40-metre long roost, which is currently home to the Livingstone's fruit bat and Rodrigues fruit bat, in Sumatra, as part of the Orangutan Haven run by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. 

Durrell's captive breeding programme has been successful in developing the number of Livingstone's fruit bats which are critically endangered in the wild.

There are now 60 of them living at the zoo.

Livingstone's fruit bats were thought to be extinct, they are that rare. They weren't seen for many decades and then they were sort of rediscovered in the late 1980s and that's why Durrell wildlife decided to go out and do a collecting trip to get some of these bats and to bring them back into captivity because the wild prognosis for the species in the wild was so bad.

Dominic Wormell, Head of Mammals, Jersey Zoo
There are only 1,100 Livingstone's fruit bat left in the wild. Credit: ITV Channel

1,100

Livingstone's fruit bat left in the wild.

60

Livingstone's fruit bat currently reside at Jersey Zoo's bat roost.


Of the approximately 1,100 species of bat that live worldwide, the Livingstone’s fruit bat is one of the largest and faces the greatest risk of extinction.

In the islands of the Comoros where the Livingstone's fruit bat lives, precious little forest remains and the islands are home to a rapidly expanding human population. This has meant vast areas of their natural habitat has been destroyed to make way for agricultural land.

The Livingstone's fruit bats home is 8,089km from Jersey in the Comoros, a volcanic archipelago off Africa's east coast. Credit: ITV Channel

Experts say if areas that the bats depend on for their survival are not protected then "this amazing species faces the risk of extinction in the near future".

Every piece of land is owned by someone to do as they please and that includes also the sites where the Livingstone's fruit bat roosts and where they feed for example, so the habitat loss is definitely the biggest problem that these bats face.

Dr Isabella Mandel, Researcher, NGO Dahari, Comoros

The first Livingstone's fruit bats arrived at Jersey Zoo in 1992 and have since thrived in captivity.

They form a safety net population should the species go extinct in the wild, and although there are no current plans to return them to their native habitat just yet, it is not impossible, and an option Durrell have if things get even worse for the species in the wild.

The first Livingstone's fruit bats arrived at Durrell in 1992. Credit: Jersey Zoo, Phillip Coffey

It would be the ultimate wouldn't it? To restore a keystone species, the incredibly important Livingstone's fruit bat back to those forests where it once was, to breed with wild Livingstone's fruit bats, would be absolutely amazing and to see them fly off into the mountains would be incredible.

Dominic Wormell, Head of Mammals, Jersey Zoo

Durrell wildlife hopes that by replicating their successful roost overseas, they can help to save and restore other keystone species, that would otherwise face extinction in the wild.