Just recently I managed to share my concerns about the inaccurate information being circulated about the Mauritian fruit bat which was wrongly being considered as a pest. And now, that concern for this species, is bigger and real, because the assumptions have been heard instead of the facts. And it has now been decided that the population is indeed going to be controlled around mid-October. The target: around 18, 000 individuals of an endemic species. There is many reasons why the bat should not be culled. But for once I will leave aside my sentiments and ecological arguments. Because this decision does not only impact us conservationists or nature lover. There is more at stake:
ONE: The reason why it was decided to cull the bats is because it is assumed that they are causing extensive economic loss to fruit growers. But we are currently in the year 2015 and even though we might be slow to follow the trend here: people are getting more and more concerned about where their food is coming from, how it got to them and how badly it is impacting the environment. Yet the current plan is to kill thousands of individuals of a unique species to prevent economic loss. I am not an economist but I am sure that selling ‘blood-stained’ fruits that has contributed to the destruction of wildlife can only decrease the value of a product.
TWO: One of the pillar of our economy is tourism. Yet what is essential for our tourism industry? The Environment. Yes we are mostly known for the beach, sea and sun. But this industry has not reached its full potential and that cannot be achieved by destroying our natural heritage. This industry also relies on the image that the world has of Mauritius. Our reputation is everything. So what image are we going to project of ourselves when we allow that thousands of an animal that is found only here, is killed without any factual justifications? Again, I am no expert but I do not think it will the type of image we want associated with a ‘paradise’ island.
THREE: The concerns of the fruit growers is real. But what is the root causes for the fruit losses claimed by them? Evidence shows that bats are contributing to only about 11 % of fruit damage. Birds and rats are important contributors to fruit damage but are less easily seen. And the majority of fruit loss is not linked to animal damage. I fear that the hope of the fruit growers are being raised unnecessarily with this culling ‘solution ‘because science is telling us clearly that the bat killing will not solve their problem. And what will happen when the issue is not solved? Kill 40% or 60% or all of the bats and then we will be left with no choice but to finally think of the real effective solution?