Express press service
KOCHI: It’s time to check out the bat roosts near you! In a unique move, a citizen science initiative is launched where local residents are included in a bat conservation project. All you need to do is visit the bat roosting sites, share the details in floating form by the organization – you have just done your part to protect the Indian Flying Fox bat species .
The project is initiated by the Wildlife Biology Department of Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI). Titled “The Fruit Bat Project”, it is initiated by the Center for Citizen Science and Biodiversity Informatics in association with the Conservation Leadership Program and is led by Dr. Balakarishnan P, Scientist, Department of Wildlife Biology.
The idea is to map bat roosting sites in Kerala and thereby help conserve bats, raise community awareness of the species and help people coexist with bats. “Democratizing the practice of science by involving the general public is the only way forward to close the data gaps to address global issues such as biodiversity loss and climate change,” said Dr Syam Viswanath , Director of KFRI.
The initiative will officially launch this week across the state. “A dark use has always been attributed to bats. They play a huge ecological role by helping in pollination, seed dispersal, etc. However, they are under threat.
“The Indian flying fox, which is common in the state, is a species of bat hunted for its meat. After Nipah, people tried to chase the bats from their roost sites. The project is an initiative aiming to help humans coexist with bats and contribute to their conservation,” says Nithin Divakar, a researcher in KFRI’s Department of Wildlife Biology.
An online form will be launched by KFRI where the public can enter details of the rest sites. Just fill out the form and share details of rest site, location and photos. Once details are received, a team of scientists, researchers or volunteers will visit the site and analyze the conditions and threats to the resting site, if any.
A campaign to raise awareness of the importance of bats will be launched. “This will not only help conserve bat species, but also help manage a crisis such as the Nipah outbreak,” says Nithin. As a pilot project, it will be launched in Kerala and will later be extended to other southern Indian states, the sources said.