A research led by an award winning bat specialist, Dr. Iroro Tanshi has led to the discovery of 36 bat species in Nigeria, of which 10 had never be seen before in the country’s ecosystem.
According to a release shared by the Communications Manager, Small Mammal Conservation Organisation, SMACON, Esther Nosazeogie, the research involved 15 months of intensive survey using mist-nets and harp traps to catch bats and that the outcome of the study was published in the journal Acta Chiropterologica.
It says, “Tanshi and her research team combed through the forests of Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and Cross River National Park (Okwangwo Division) in Cross River state between May 2015 to January 2018 to carry out this intensive bat survey.
“Before now, 90 species of bats were known to occur in Nigeria. And this number represents almost a third of the different species of bats that are known to occur in Africa. This survey was not only effective in increasing Nigeria’s bat species to 100, but it has also shown us why it is important to protect our remaining forests, and increase our research efforts.
Speaking on the study, Dr. Inaoyom Imong, the Director of Nigeria’s Cross River Landscape Program at the Wildlife Conservation Society was reported as noting that
“Hopefully, these findings will cause people to realize that we need to do more to protect these key biodiversity sites. As a Nigerian, as somebody from Cross River, I’m particularly happy to see these findings. It goes to say that there’s a lot more to learn from my forest in terms of biodiversity.”
Imong hoped that the study would inspire other researchers ” to pay more attention to the region and maybe inspire younger researchers as well to take an interest in bat research. There’s a lot to learn. This is one study which has found 10 new recruits for Nigeria. I would imagine how many more records we could potentially find with increased survey effort. So overall, I think this is really good news for Nigeria.”, added Dr. Imong.
The release went on to describe Nigeria as “ecologically diverse, having many different types of habitat. One of these habitat types is a forest block which extends from south-eastern Nigeria to south-western Cameroon, and is the largest of the six most significant hotspots of bat diversity in Africa.
“Although this forest block, which includes the surveyed Afi and Okwango forests in south-eastern Nigeria, has been predicted to contain little-known species of bats, its Nigerian part has not received a lot of research attention, especially compared to its Cameroonian part.
“Of the 36 bat species recorded in this new survey, 10 were new country records, including an endangered species (Hipposideros curtus), and six were species for which there is insufficient information with which to assess their conservation status (categorized by the IUCN as data-deficient). As a result of Tanshi’s efforts, the endangered bat is now receiving a lot of attention so that work is being done to save it from extinction.
“If 15 months of a carefully planned survey by a small research team has updated the knowledge of African bats by yielding 10 new bat species for Nigeria, some of which are of conservation concern, it is evident that much more biodiversity waits to be discovered in previously unsampled places.
“This study clearly shows that we need to scale up forest research and conservation efforts in Nigeria, especially in biodiversity-rich areas that have not been surveyed extensively for biodiversity. Ironically, these rich forests are threatened with destruction and unsustainable use”.
A Professor at Texas Tech University, Tigga Kingston while commending the effort said , “It’s a really solid foundation for future ecological and conservation work because we can’t protect any biodiversity if we don’t know what’s there in the first place.
“So the ground has been broken and the foundation has been laid; that’s not the end of it. It is only the beginning”.
Also reacting, Liza Gadsby, Director of Pandrillus Foundation, a conservation NGO said , “This is a call for more carefully planned surveys like this, especially to unsampled areas known to be rich in biodiversity”.
The NGO is works to protect endangered primates in Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary.
Leader of the research team and Director of Research at SMACON, Dr. Tanshi pointed out that a major lesson from the study is need to keep the organisms’ habitat intact.