Davy’s Naked-backed Bat (click image to enlarge)
Copyright © Jafet M. Nassar
 
Ghost-faced Bat (click image to enlarge)
Copyright © Jafet M. Nassar
 
Curaçaoan Long-tongued Bat (click image to enlarge)
Copyright © Jafet M. Nassar
 
Miller’s Long-nosed Bat (click image to enlarge)
Copyright © Jafet M. Nassar
 
Greater Bulldog Bat (click image to enlarge)
Copyright © Ariany García-Rawlins
 
Curaçao Myotis (click image to enlarge)
Copyright © Jafet M. Nassar
 
Funnel-eared Bat (click image to enlarge)
Copyright © Jafet M. Nassar
 
Pallas' Mastiff Bat (click image to enlarge)
Copyright © Burton Lim

Five of the species living in the ABC Islands are insect-eating bats. Their entire diet consists of insects, including beetles, moths, and the annoying mosquitoes. That’s why when you sit down in the porch of your house at sunset you see fast shadows performing gracious dances around you, even entering into your house to get a snack--probably a mosquito that was going to have fun with you the entire night.

From the smallest to the largest, we have here the Curaçao Myotis (Myotis nesopolus), a dark brown bat that only weighs 3 to 5 grams. Of similar size and weight, but with yellow fur, is the Funnel-eared Bat, Natalus tumidirostris. Both of these bats fly so graciously that resemble nocturnal butterflies, quite good at avoiding obstacles. Only one individual of the Davy's Naked-backed Bat, Pteronotus davyii, has been recorded for Bonaire, but they are common in Aruba and Curacao. This little bat weighs 5 to 10 grams and its wings are attached along the mid-back, covering the dorsal fur, which gives the naked-backed appearance. They are adapted to hunt insects inside the vegetation. The next one on the list is the Pallas's Mastiff Bat, Molossus molossus, a very fast and heavier bat (10 to 14 grams), with a free tail that makes it look like a mouse with wings. It is because of bats like this one that people find a resemblance between mice and bats. Finally, we have the Ghost-faced Bat, Mormoops megalophylla, the largest insect-feeding bat on the ABC islands (15-16 grams), with a very distinctive and bizarre rostrum, mainly characterized by rounded ears like satellite antennas covering most part of its face. With the exception of the Pallas's Mastiff Bat, which lives in relatively tall buildings, roofs, mountain walls, and tall trees, the other species rely on caves to rest during the day.

The second group of bats that inhabit the ABC islands are the nectar- and fruit-feeding bats. Yes, these are bats that eat large amounts of floral nectar, pollen, and fruit pulp. They are quite different to the insect bats, because they are not as well adapted to hunt insects in the air. Instead, they have quite long tongues and small incisive teeth, or lack of them, to facilitate the protrusion of the tongue while feeding on flowers. In one sense, they behave and feed very much like hummingbirds, flying from flower to flower, and hovering in front of them when eating. The more common of the two species is the Miller’s Long-tongued Bat, Glossophaga longirostris, with brown coloration and an average weight of 15 grams. This bat is capable of living in many types of roosts, including caves, rock crevices, abandoned houses, tree holes, the roofs and attics of inhabited houses, and beneath any type of construction dark enough to allow them to rest during the day. It is a very important pollinator of the flowers of columnar cacti (kadushi, kadushi di pushi, and yatu), agaves and calabash trees. Thus, they help to produce the fruits that many animals on the island eat. Besides, this bat also feeds, to a certain extent, on insects. The other important ecological role they have is as seed dispersal agents. It's as if they are farmers, dispersing the seeds of the fruits they ingest while defecating during flight. They do not have a problem flying on open areas, where they release their precious seed loads, like bombing planes, contributing to the natural restoration of disturbed habitats on the island.

The other nectar-feeding bat is the Curaçaoan Long-nosed Bat, Leptonycteris curasoae. This is one of the largest bats on islands (approximately 26 grams) and it is more specialized on flowers and fruits than the Miller’s Long-tongued Bat. It is also a very important pollinator agent of agaves and columnar cacti, besides dispersing the seeds of the latter. But this species differs from the smaller one in several ecological and behavioral attributes. The two most important attributes are its gregarious habits and its migratory behavior. Curaçaoan Long-nosed Bats need to live in large colonies composed of hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands individuals. For them it is very important to have the close contact with their conspecifics, probably because that helps to keep them warm, besides facilitating social interactions they might perform. So, in order to be in large colonies, these bats need to live in caves. Concerning their migratory capabilities, it has been demonstrated that this species can fly over long distances in one night (> 100 km), including flights over the sea. Besides this, they can temporarily disappear from certain locations in Colombia and Venezuela, suggesting that at least some populations migrate. Mark and recapture of these bats on the three islands and Venezuela has demonstrated that they move between the islands, but we still do not know if the metapopulation is truly migratory or not, because we have noticed the presence of these bats on the island year round; however, their numbers tend to fluctuate throughout the year.

Finally, there are historical records indicating  other species of bats might also be living on the ABC Islands: the Greater Bulldog Bat, Noctilio leporinus, and the Little White-shouldered Bat, Ametrida centurio. The Greater Bulldog Bat would be the largest species on the island, weighing between 50 and 90 grams. Besides its peculiar bulldog-like face and yellowish fur, this species is outstanding for its feeding habit, which consists mainly of fish that they get from calm waters in lagoons and mangroves. They capture the fish with the help of their feet and long and sharp curved nails. As roosts, they use caves close to the sea and tree hollows, sometimes abandoned by the loras. The Little White-shouldered Bat was only captured once on Bonaire. This relatively rare animal of 8 to 10 grams belongs to the group of the fruit-feeding bats within the family of leaf-nosed bats, and its biology is poorly understood at present. The Jamaican Frugivorous bat, Artibeus jamaicensis, has been recorded only in Aruba and Curacao and it has a grey-brownish color, paler on its ventral side and a size of approximately 9 cm. Due to the very short distance of only 22 Km. that separate Aruba from the South American continent and the fact that this island is part of the continental shelf, 3 more species of bats have been found on this island only: the insectivore Mexican Free-tailed bat, Tadarida brasilensis, varying in color between from brown to grey, size of 9 cm and weighting approximately 15 grams; the frugivore Small Yellow'shouldered bat, Sturnina lilium and the Trinidad Dog-like bat, Peropteryx trinitaris, an aerial insectivore considered rare in all its geographic distribution. Very little is know about the ecology of these 3 species on the island of Aruba.

 


 

fernando

Fernando Simal

General Coordinator

Temporary Administration Coordinator

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Fernando is the Manager of the Natural and Historic Resources Unit of STINAPA Bonaire, an NGO that has the mandate from the Government of the Island of Bonaire to manage the national parks of the island. He has worked for this institution since the year 2000. After 9 years as Manager of the terrestrial park, since 2010 he is responsible for all the research and monitoring of flora and fauna that takes place in the national parks of Bonaire. Currently, he is engaged in studying the population dynamics of the Long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae) in the ABC islands, the cave use dynamics of bat populations in the three islands and a cave-mapping project that aims to include all caves found in the ABC’s. Fernando aims to substantiate the legal implementation of “Cave System Nature Reserves’’ in the ABC Islands with the knowledge acquired by the three projects.


odette

Odette Doest

Conservation Coordinator

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Odette is a Veterinary Doctor based in Curacao, her place of birth. Besides the vast amount of work at her clinic with domestic animals, she also has a great amount of experience treating wild fauna. She participated in the Bats and Caves Workshop held in Curacao during May 2011 and has been very active on bat research and conservation ever since. On her own initiative, Odette has added a whole new field to bat research in the ABC’s by initiating studies into different aspects of bat physiology and zoonosis in cooperation with Universities in Holland, her place of graduation. Parallel to her veterinarian skills, Odette has a heart for the conservation and protection of all kinds of wildlife and their habitats and she plans to use the PCMABC as a platform from where she can contribute significant work on this field, including management actions and legislation.


linda

Linda Garcia

Scientific Research Coordinator

Temporary Aruba Island Coordinator

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Linda lived and studied in Cape Town, South Africa, and worked for 9 years in Marine Research in her country. In 2010 she arrived in Aruba, unexpectedly, but decided to stay and seek new opportunities.  Currently working as a SCUBA Dive Instructor in Aruba, she participated in the Bat & Caves Workshop held on the island of Aruba in 2012, and has been hooked ever since.  Linda is the Field Scientific Advisor for the bat mist netting  sessions conducted by FPN Arikok. She has also being responsible for all the data collection for the Phenology of Cacti & Agave Project in FPN Arikok in Aruba. Through her involvement in bat conservation, Linda has become more and more aware of the increasing need to find out more about how the bats are utilizing the islands, how tourism and many other factors could be impacting them and their survival, and to find the best possible solutions to ensure their continued survival and growth in the Caribbean.  Linda hopes to continue on a path which takes her back to scientific research fulltime, putting her valuable education and experience to good use. She is honored and delighted to have been selected as Scientific Coordinator of the PCMABC.


desiree

Desiree Croes

Education Coordinator

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Desiree is working for STINAPA Bonaire for over 4 years as Nature & Environment Education Coordinator. She wants to teach children the value of nature for their own future survival on Bonaire and in the whole world. During this period she developed bat education activities for elementary schools on Bonaire. She also started the bat presentations for the general public combined with a live activity at the caves guided by scientists to bring the public closer to bat research and monitoring activities. Desiree has been exceptionally successful with the Junior Ranger Program, bringing many positive changes into  the life of many children and teenagers of Bonaire, including the love and appreciation for nature and a healthy environment. Her motivation to join the PCMABC is to teach the future generation about bats as key species of terrestrial ecosystems as they have not received the attention and credit they deserve as major insect-controllers and pollinators in ecosystems worldwide. As the Education Coordinator of the PCMABC she has the opportunity to help this utterly unique and misunderstood mammal.


karen

Karen Winona van Dijk

Communications Coordinator

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Karen has worked for six years as the Communications Coordinator of STINAPA Bonaire, before accepting a new challenge two years ago. During her time at STINAPA Bonaire, she developed a keen interest in the bat research being undertaken by her colleagues. She became motivated to contribute to the preservation of Bonaire's bat populations, when she learned about the many benefits that the bat ecological interactions bring to the people and nature of the island. She was surprised by how few people are aware of this. She was therefore delighted to accept the invitation to serve as the Communications Coordinator for the PCMABC.


clifford

Clifford de Lannoy

Curacao Island Coordinator

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Clifford works in the Environmental Consultancy Department of CARMABI (Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity) Foundation, a NGO that focuses on nature education and research, and management of the national parks (Christoffel Park and Shete Boka) on Curaçao. He has a master degree in Ecology and Natural Resources Management and works for CARMABI since February 2012. He has been introduced into bat research and conservation by Fernando Simal and has joined via CARMABI the ABC’s Bat Conservation Program since May 2012, during which he gained significant knowledge and experience in both the content as the coordination of bat research and conservation efforts. The final goal is to assure long term and structural bat conservation on Curaçao and the ABC region by means of scientific research, through optimization of environmental policy and nature management strategies and communal support (through education & awareness building).


paulo

Paulo Bertuol

Bonaire Island Coordinator

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Paulo is the Wildlife Biologist of the Natural and Historic Resources Unit of STINAPA Bonaire. After doing some consultancy projects for this organization, he works now as a full time employee and he is involved in marine and terrestrial research. Previously, he worked on the dive industry in the South of Brazil, where he owned a SCUBA dive operation. For the last 2 years he has been conducting bat research on Bonaire and has participated in the cave mapping project. Together with Desiree Croes, Environmental Education Coordinator of STINAPA Bonaire and our PCMABC, he has been involved in environmental education activities in order to show people the great importance of bats and their conservation.