A little-known fruit bat, the East African little collared fruit bat (Myonycteris relicta) was only described as recently as 1980 (2). Named after the ‘collar’ of coarse hair around the neck of the male, the East African little collared fruit bat has light reddish-brown fur on the body, which is slightly lighter on the underparts. The large wings are dark brown (2).
The East African little collared fruit bat has relatively large, pointed ears (2) but, like most fruits bats, these are unlikely to be used for echolocation. Instead, this bat relies on smell and its large, well-developed eyes to find food (3).
Virtually nothing is known of the biology or behaviour of the East African little collared fruit bat, except that individuals are usually captured singularly (5), which suggests it is a solitary species (2).
The diet of the East African little collared fruit bat is also unknown, but it has been found in areas containing fig trees (2) and fruit bats in captivity are capable of eating a variety of soft fruits (6). Unlike many bats, it apparently does not roost in caves (4).
It is believed that a mosaic of open country and forest patches are the preferred habitat of the East African little collared fruit bat (4). The first described East African little collared fruit bat was caught in an area of big thorn trees and fig trees near a river (1)(2). It has not been caught in the East African savannas despite considerable fruit bat collecting activities in this region (2).
Although little is known about the East African little collared fruit bat, it is likely to be affected by the ongoing loss of its habitat, as a result of logging, harvesting of firewood and the conversion of forest to farmland (1).
East African little collared fruit bat conservation
There are no direct conservation measures in place for the East African little collared fruit bat. It has been found in the Haroni and Rusitu protected areas in Zimbabwe, although as deforestation has still been taking place in these areas, their protected status seems to mean little in practice (1).
The conservation of lowland forest throughout much of East Africa is essential for the future of this bat and many other species (1). Fortunately, there are a number of conservation organisations working to conserve the forest habitat in the region, including WWF Tanzania (7).
Bergmans, W.M. (1980) A new fruit bat of the genus Myonycteris Matschie, 1899, from eastern Kenya and Tanzania (Mammalia, Megachiroptera). Zoologische Mededelingen, 55(14): 171-181.
Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
Skinner, J.D. and Chimimba, C.T. (2005) The Mammals of Southern Africa.Third Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Rodriguez, R.M., Hoffmann, F., Porter, C.A. and Baker, R. (2006) The bat community of the Rabi oil field in the Gamba Complex of Protected Areas. Bulletin of the Biological Society of Washington, 12: 365-370.
Demspey, J.L. and Crissey, S.D. (1995) Nutrition. In: Fascione, N. (Ed.) Fruit Bat Husbandry Manual. AZA Bat Taxon Advisory Group, The Lubee Foundation Inc, Gainesville, Florida.
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