Large flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus)

Also known as: large flying-fox
Synonyms: Pteropus caninus, Pteropus celaeno, Pteropus edulis, Pteropus funereus, Pteropus javanicus, Pteropus kalou, Pteropus kelaarti, Pteropus kopangi, Pteropus lanensis, Pteropus malaccensis, Pteropus natunae, Pteropus nudus, Pteropus phaiops, Pteropus pluton, Pteropus pteronotus, Pteropus sumatrensis
Spanish: Zorro Volador De Cuello Rojo
GenusPteropus (1)
SizeWingspan: 1.5 m (2)
Weight0.6 – 1.1 kg (2)

The large flying fox is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The large flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus), so named because of its fox-like facial features, is one of the largest bats in the world (2). The hair on the underparts of the large flying fox ranges from black to tawny brown and is long and woolly, while the hair on the back is shorter and stiffer, (this is more pronounced in males), and ranges in colour from mahogany red to orange and black (2). The large flying fox has long, pointed ears and no clearly visible tail (2).

The large flying fox is found throughout South East Asia. Its range extends from southern Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, south through Peninsular Malaysia to Singapore and much of Indonesia, and east to Borneo and the Philippines (1).

Although most common in coastal regions, the large flying fox has also been found at altitudes as high as 1,370 metres above sea level (2). It usually inhabits primary forests and mangroves, and roosts in tall trees with leafless upper branches, but can also be found feeding in coconut groves and fruit orchards (3).

The large flying fox roosts in colonies that can contain anywhere between a few individuals to thousands (2). Leaving the roost near sunset, the large flying fox flies silently to feeding areas, which can be up to 50 kilometres away. It often circles a fruit tree before landing, and noisy feeding groups numbering a few to over 50 bats form (2). Unlike many other bats, which use echolocation in order to navigate, flying foxes depend on sight in order to find their way at night (4). While it is known as a ‘fruit bat’, and will eat the fruit of rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum), fig (Ficus species) and langsat (Lansium domesticum) trees, the large flying fox also feeds on the nectar and flowers of coconut (Cocos nucifera) and durian (Durio zibethinus) trees (2) (5). It has a long tongue which enables it to lick the nectar without damaging the flower (2). As it feeds from a flower, pollen may stick to its fur, resulting in it being carried to another plant; thus the large flying fox is an important pollinator of many forest plants (6).

Female large flying foxes typically give birth to a single young each year, the timing of which depends on the location. In the Philippines, most births take place during April and May, while in Thailand births peak during March or early April (2). The young bat is carried by its mother for the first few days, but is then left in the roost while the mother forages. The young suckles from its mother for two to three months (2).

The large flying fox is hunted in a number of the countries in which it occurs, including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, for food and for sport (1) (7). As it feeds on cultivated fruits, the large flying fox is often considered to be an agricultural pest, and is killed as a result (8). It also suffers from habitat loss, as lowland forests and mangroves throughout its range are cleared for human activities (1) (2).  

Hunting of the large flying fox for sport or food is banned in Thailand, and this species is similarly protected in Cambodia (8). In addition, over its large range, it is likely that the large flying fox occurs in a number of protected areas (1). However, as overhunting remains one of the greatest threats to this bat, hunting still requires regulation (1). As the large flying fox may travel great distances between various roosting and foraging sites, often crossing international borders, it is important that countries in the region work together to secure the future of this impressive bat (8).  

To find out about efforts to conserve bats around the world see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
  2. Kunz, T.H. and Jones, D.P. (2000) Pteropus vampyrus. Mammalian Species, 642: 1-6.
  3. Kunz, T.H. (1982) Ecology of Bats. Plenum Press, New York.
  4. Burton, M. and Burton, R. (2002) International Wildlife Encyclopedia. Marshall Cavendish, New York.
  5. Kunz, T.H. and Brock Fenton, M. (2003) Bat Ecology. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  6. Francis, C.M. (2008) A Field Guide to the Mammals of South-East Asia. New Holland Publishers, London.
  7. Mickleburgh, S., Waylen, K. and Racey, P. (2009) Bats as bush meat: a global review. Oryx, 43: 217-234.
  8. Epstein, J.H., Olival, K.J., Pulliamm, J.R.C., Smith, C., Westrum, J., Hughes, T., Dobson, A.P., Zubaid, A., Rahman, S.A., Basir, M.M., Field, H.E. and Daszak, P. (2009) Pteropus vampyrus, a hunted migratory species with a multinational home range and a need for regional management. Journal of Applied Ecology, 46: 991-1002.