Bolivian Bat Conservation and Community Education Project

Bats represent one of the most numerous Bolivian mammalian groups, with an estimated diversity of 120 species – a third of all Bolivian mammal species. Despite this, knowledge of the basic biology, ecology, and distribution of almost all Bolivian bats rem ains poor. Bats play an undervalued but critical role in forest regeneration, pollination and seed dispersal and are thus important to local human populations, as these plants are a source for commercial timber, traditional housing material, foods and medicines. However, these important relationships are poorly understood. In addition, because the Common Vampire Bat spreads disease and can have an economic impact on ranching, all bats suffer indiscriminate persecution. Hoping to reduce vampire bat numbers, local people attack bat roosts, destroying habitat necessary for the survival of all bat species.

Lizette is a young conservation biologist who is passionate about bats. She and her team have surveyed bats in 12 different habitats across Bolivia and collected the first acoustic information for 7 species. Her team has also developed an innovative educational workshop, which can be adapted to each community to encourage villagers to get involved with the project and learn about the importance of bats. As part of the proposed work, Lizette and her team will expand their bat surveys and educational workshops to new sites, widening the scope of the project.

Members of the local community will be trained to involve more Bolivians in the study of bats, collecting information on bat distribution and ecology that will be vital to determining bat conservation status. The project will develop bat diversity and ecology surveys using a combination of methods in sites across Bolivia. The sites selected have been chosen as areas suspected of being important for bat conservation in Bolivia but that have never been previously studied. A threat assessment and an educational workshop will also be conducted at each site. Of particular focus is the reduction of conflict between communities and bats where vampire bats pose a problem to local people. It is hoped the project will have an important impact in bat conservation in Bolivia, because it focuses on the most crucial aspects at present, principally the paucity of information and persecution by rural communities.

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