Golden-capped fruit bat (Acerodon jubatus)
|Also known as:||giant fruit bat, golden-crowned flying fox|
|Spanish:||Zorro Volador Filipino|
|Size||Male total length: 340 – 343 mm (2)|
Female total length: 336 – 338 mm (2)
|Weight||up to 1.1 kg (3)|
Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (4).
Named after the patch of golden-tipped hairs on top of the head, the golden-capped fruit bat is the largest fruit bat in the Philippines (5), and one of the largest bats in the world (3). The ‘golden-cap’, along with an orangey-yellow region on the back of the neck, contrasts with the brownish-black fur on the other parts of the head and the reddish-brown fur on the back. The fur on the underside of the body is blackish with silvery tipped hairs (2). Like other species in the Pteropodidae family, the golden-capped fruit bat has a dog-like face, large eyes and simple, but conspicuous, ears (6).
The golden-capped fruit bat is endemic to the Philippines. Two subspecies are recognised: Acerodon jubatus jubatus occurs on Basilan, Biliran, Cebu, Dinagat, Leyte, Luzon, Mindoro, Negros, Panay, Samar, and the Sulu Archipelago, while A. j. mindanensis is found just on the island of Mindanao (5). However, deforestation and hunting may have caused this species’ extinction on some of the islands, such as Cebu (5).
The golden-capped fruit bat inhabits forest, from sea level up to elevations of 1,100 metres. It is only known to occur in large areas of forest, and shows a preference for primary or mature secondary forest (5).
Golden-capped fruit bats live in colonies, often with the Malayan flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus) (2). As they cluster together for warmth and improved protection from predators (6), they look strangely like black bags hanging from the branches of trees. These colonies, at least historically, may consist of several thousands bats (2); one immense colony recorded in the 1920s contained around 150,000 individuals (3) (7).
In the evening, the bats leave their roosting sites, flying as far as 30 kilometres away to feed on fruit, particularly the fruits of fig (Ficus) trees (2) (5) (7). The golden-capped fruit bat navigates its way around the forest and locates food using its good vision, without utilizing echolocation as many other bat species do (6).
The breeding season for the golden-capped fruit bat usually extends between the drier months of April and May (2). Females are thought to produce no more than one young each year (5).
Once considered common (2), the golden-capped fruit bat is now threatened with imminent extinction (5). As a result of deforestation and hunting, populations all over the Philippines have declined considerably, and this species has vanished entirely from a number of islands (5). The natural habitat of the Philippines is amongst the most threatened in the world, with only six to seven percent of the original primary forest remaining, largely due to extensive commercial logging (8). This undoubtedly has had a significant impact on the golden-capped fruit bat, which favours primary forest (5).
Due to its large size and tendency to roost in large colonies, the golden-capped fruit bat is a desirable and easy target for local hunters, and its flesh is sold in markets and commonly eaten. When shot at a roost, often the bat does not fall out of the tree, or it may glide out of sight, meaning that a hunter that requires 10 bats may end up killing 20 to 30 individuals (5).
While the golden-capped fruit bat is thought to occur in some protected areas (5), further action is urgently needed to prevent the extinction of this species. In 1992, an action plan developed for the conservation of Old World fruit bats outlined a number of conservation measures recommended for this species. Due to the problems with enforcing any hunting controls, the plan recommended that the most effective method of protection would be to manage colonies on small islands where suitable habitat remains, and where protection efforts would have a better chance of success (5). In 2003, the Philippine Endemic Species Conservation Project implemented a programme for the protection of the golden-capped fruit bat on the tiny island of Boracay, off the northwest corner of Panay. The project’s achievements included nearly eliminating hunting of the colony (9). In combination with conservation efforts in the wild, captive breeding may eventually be necessary to ensure the long-term survival of the golden-capped fruit bat (5).
For further information on conservation in the Philippines see:
- Philippine Endemic Species Conservation Project:
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- Echolocation: detecting objects by reflected sound. Used by bats and odontocete cetaceans (toothed whales, dolphins and porpoises) for orientation and to detect and locate prey.
- Endemic: a species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Primary forest: forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
- Secondary forest: forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.
- Subspecies: a population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
IUCN Red List (December, 2009)