09/01/2018

Fruit bat appeal is a third of the way to its target

Bristol PhD student Sarah Richdon is a third of the way to crowd funding vital research to safeguard the future of Livingstone’s fruit bats.

Sarah, a student at Bristol Zoological Society, needs to raise £7,500 ($10,000) to pay for detailed analysis to create a genetic family tree of the iconic animals.

At present there are fewer than 1,300 Livingstone’s fruit bats left in the wild. In captivity there are just 71 precious individuals, of which 11 are at Bristol Zoo Gardens.

Sarah, who works part-time as a volunteer co-ordinator at Bristol Zoo Gardens, wants to produce the genetic family tree of all the bats in captivity by comparing their genetic finger-prints.

She is facing a race against time as her crowd funding appeal runs out on February 2. If she does not reach the target she will get nothing.

Sarah, who is funding her own studies, has been given £1,000 from the staff development fund at Bristol Zoo towards the cost of the research but she has to raise the rest.

She said: “So far, we’ve reached a third of our total, with only 25 days left to find the remaining amount.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the support people have shown up to now, but we still need lots of help to keep up momentum!

“Without this research, Livingstone’s fruit bats have a much greater risk of extinction so it’s crucial we reach our target.”

Sarah, who studied zoology at Cardiff University and is now working with Bristol University for her PhD, said it was possible to bring back species from low numbers.

Livingstone’s fruit bats are found in the wild on the Comoro islands in the Indian Ocean north-west of Madagascar. In recent years, more than 45 per cent of the Comoros islands have been transformed into agricultural land depriving the bats of their natural habitat.

It has also affected the eco-system as bats are crucial for re-forestation because they disperse seeds across the island.

Sarah became fascinated with fruit bats when she was a volunteer at Bristol Zoo for 18 months.

She said: “I knew I wanted to do research. I started to look into the fruit bats and discovered there was very little known about them.

“They are highly social animals that live in large groups and each one has its own personality.

But she added: “Their situation is critical and has a poor prognosis without help. Only with conservation in the field and in captivity can this species survive.”

It will take Sarah two years to complete her genetic research and five to finish her PhD but she intends to publish her findings as she goes along.

“It is important that the information I find is in the public domain so that everyone can benefit,” she said.

To donate to Sarah’s crowd funding appeal go to:

www.tinyurl.com/batonthebrink

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