The Marianas Variety ran a story with a misleading headline on Thursday, August 26, “Fruit bats, megapodes thrive in Northern Islands.” The story details how later this year the US Fish & Wildlife Service will release their report on the terrestrial survey of the Northern Islands they completed this summer, but quotes employees of the Northern Islands Mayor’s office to claim that fruit bats in the Northern Islands are thriving.
That was not the experience I had when I visited the Northern Islands last year; I saw very few bats. I decided to research what the historical populations of fruit bats were and found a paper Population estimates of fruit bats (Pteropus mariannus) in the Mariana Islands by Wiles et al.
Wiles et al. found that the largest fruit bat population was on Anatahan. Anatahan erupted in 2003 and destroyed much of the island. When I passed Anatahan last year I found a charred moonscape. It is unlikely many bats have survived the numerous eruptions over the last decade. USFWS didn’t survey the island this year for this reason.
Wiles et al. also found there were 2500 fruit bats living on Pagan. Compare that to the 1200 fruit bats Sandy Castro said they found living there this year. A reduction of over 50% in bat populations on an uninhabited island and the annihilation of the population on another does not meet the definition of “thriving.”
The article should have been headlined, “Fruit bats hammered in Northern Islands.”
Angelo O’Connor Villagomez