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2023 Continuation Funding
2021 Whitley Award
Iroro Tanshi Nigeria Terrestrial
Bats from the brink: Participatory action to save the short-tailed roundleaf bat

Bats are some of the world’s most maligned mammals, feared as witches in Nigeria despite facilitating farming through pest control and pollination. Iroro will work with communities and the next generation of conservationists to save the short-tailed roundleaf bat, after discovering the Nigeria’s first and only population.


The short-tailed roundleaf bat had not been seen in the wild for 45 years. It was thought to occur only in Cameroon and Bioko until Iroro and the Small Mammal Conservation Organisation discovered a group of just 15 individuals in south-eastern Nigeria in 2016. With all previously known roosts destroyed, this population is the last confirmed site for the species.

Whitley Award winner Iroro Tanshi


Habitat loss and cave disturbance are the main drivers of decline across its range. Forest fires spread from farmland during annual brush burning. Meanwhile, as COVID-19’s economic fallout forces more people to forage for bushmeat, fruit bat hunting is having an increasingly disruptive impact on roosts.

Juvenile short-tailed roundleaf bat at cave entrance


Iroro will now expand her work from Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and Cross River National Park to the Mbe Mountains, locating new caves and tracking bats to better understand their distribution. As well as identifying roosts for protection, she will address the drivers of their decline. Iroro will work with communities to replace hunting with other sources of protein, to establish a wildfire early warning system and emergency taskforce, and to find alternatives to agricultural burning. Finally, her team will train in-country leaders to secure the future of conservation in Nigeria.

Iroro Tanshi training students

Iroro and her team will:

  • Install early-warning systems and set up fire-fighting forces across four communities, to eliminate wildfires that destroy forest habitat.
  • Discover new roosting caves with monitoring patrols then advocate for their protection.
  • Reduce fruit bat hunting by 50% whilst offering protein alternatives, to curtail cave disturbance and help populations of short-tailed roundleaf bats recover.
  • Inspire the next generation of in-country conservationists to ensure long-term success in Nigeria.

Top facts:

  • The highest rate of deforestation in the world is happening here, across Iroro’s project site.
  • Insectivorous bats are considered witches in Nigeria despite facilitating farming through natural pest control and pollination.
  • The short-tailed roundleaf bat has unusually large ears for its family, complete with a small button in the middle of its nose.

“At the heart of this programme will be capacity building of in-country scientists and conservationists who will lead the future of African research.” Iroro Tanshi

Film credits: Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP), Icon Films.


2023 Continuation Funding

Rediscovered yet rapidly disappearing: Recovery plan for the Short-tailed Roundleaf Bat 
£50,000 over 1 year

The Short-tailed Roundleaf Bat was rediscovered in Nigeria after 45-years of no recorded sightings. Today, it remains among the top 1% of the world’s most endangered bats, with a known population of less than 1,500. Despite this, the species is only formally protected in Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and Cross River National Park in Nigeria, and nowhere else in it’s range.

2021 Whitley Award winner Iroro Tanshi is implementing immediate and long-term action to support the recovery of these bats, which once more face extinction due to intensifying wildfires caused by farmers and disturbances of the caves they roost in by hunters. The Short-tailed Roundleaf bat has seen recent population crashes that have affected 70% of known subpopulations, making the need for protecting them all the more urgent. Added to this, rebounding recovery rates are intensely hindered by the bats occurring in naturally small populations, with a low reproduction rate of just one pup per year.

To overcome these challenges, Iroro established the Curtus Conservation Network, representing a system of in-country experts working to conserve the Short-tailed Roundleaf bat. Using her initial Whitley Award funding, Iroro also deployed Forest Guardians to prevent wildfires around the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and established alternative livelihoods to reduce the community’s dependence on fruit bat hunting.

With Continuation Funding, she plans to scale up this work by collaborating with Curtus Conservation Network members on a revised action plan to strengthen range-wide efforts to support the species. This will involve in-country assessments of the species in underrepresented range states in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea; biweekly ranger patrols to help protect three recently discovered populations – including the only known cave roosting population in Cross River National Park – and raising awareness of the species through community outreach events. Funding will also support an Early-warning Wildfire Prediction and Prevention program to protect 86,000 hectares of biodiversity rich forest in the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, where Forest Guardians are currently faced with limitations around equipment, transport and access.