Pemba flying fox (Pteropus voeltzkowi)

Spanish: Zorro Volador De Voeltzkow
GenusPteropus (1)
SizeHead-body length: 24 - 26.5 cm (2)
Forearm length: 15 - 16 cm (2)
Weight430 - 610 g (2)

The Pemba flying fox is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

With characteristic dog-like facial features, the Pemba flying fox (Pteropus voeltzkowi) is a large fruit bat with chestnut-red fur, orange underparts, and a black face and wings (2) (4). The ears are short and pointed (2). The male Pemba flying fox is larger and darker in colour than the female (4).

The Pemba flying fox is endemic to Pemba Island, 40 kilometres off the coast of mainland Tanzania, in the Indian Ocean (1) (2). Ninety-four percent of the Pemba flying fox population is found in just ten roost sites (5).

The Pemba flying fox is found in both primary and secondary forest, as well as in graveyards and mangroves (5).

Gathering in mixed-sex groups of up to 850 individuals to roost, the Pemba flying fox creates quite a spectacle. The bats remain faithful to the roost (often a group of large, mature trees), returning from feeding trips in huge flocks (4). The Pemba flying fox feeds on mangos, breadfruit, figs, flowers and leaves, and may be the only species on the island that disperses larger seeds, thereby proving essential to the survival of the plants that produce them (6). Unlike insectivorous bats (Microchiroptera), this species does not use echolocation, instead using vision to locate fruit (7).

The Pemba flying fox is thought to mate between January and April, with births occurring between June and August (4). The young become independent within three to six months (7).

By inhabiting graveyards, the Pemba flying fox gains some protection, as these are seldom visited due to local taboos. Bats provide a source of protein for the inhabitants of Pemba Island, but they are not hunted on a commercial level (4); however, the use of shotguns instead of traditional hunting methods has led to unsustainable levels of hunting in the past (1). Deforestation as a result of logging and the conversion of forests to agricultural land also poses a threat to the survival of the Pemba flying fox (1) (4) (5), and some bats may also be killed in collisions with overhead electricity cables (1).

A range of conservation measures for the Pemba flying fox was initiated in 1995, and has included education campaigns, efforts to protect roosts, meetings with hunters and key decision makers, and ongoing monitoring of the bat population (8). Bat-related ecotourism activities have helped to generate income for local communities, and the Pemba flying fox also occurs in two recently gazetted protected areas, the Ngezi-Vumawimbi Nature Forest Reserve and Msitu Kuu Forest (1). The hunting of bats with shotguns has been banned across much of Pemba Island (8), although some hunting does continue (1). A captive breeding programme for the Pemba flying fox has also been established, at Phoenix Zoo, Arizona, in the USA (4). Fortunately, the wild population of this large fruit bat is now increasing, and in 2004 the species was downlisted from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List (1).

For more information on the Pemba flying fox and its conservation, 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 (January, 2011)
  2. The Field Museum of Natural History: Mammals of Tanzania - Pteropus voeltzkowi (January, 2011)
  3. CITES (February, 2005)
  4. Lubee Bat Conservancy - Afrotropics & Western Indian Ocean Islands (February, 2005)
  5. Entwistle, A.C. and Corp, N. (1997) Status and distribution of the Pemba flying fox Pteropus voeltzkowi. Oryx, 31(2): 135-142.
  6. Entwistle, A.C. and Corp, N. (1997) The diet of Pteropus voeltzkowi, an endangered fruit bat endemic to Pemba Island, Tanzania. African Journal of Ecology, 35(4): 351-360.
  7. Animal Info - Pemba Flying Fox (February, 2005)
  8. Lubee Bat Conservancy - Pemba Flying Fox Conservation Project (January, 2011)