Salim Ali's fruit bat is one of the world's rarest bats (3) and is the only species in the genus Latidens. It is a medium-sized fruit bat, which lacks an external tail. The head is covered in blackish-brown fur which is paler at the base, the wing membrane and the long fur are light brown in colour, and the underparts are light grey-brown. The species was first collected in 1948 by a British naturalist called Angus Hutton, who mis-identified the specimen as the common short-nosed fruit bat. The specimen was re-examined later by Kitty Thonglongya who recognised it as a new species and named it in honour of the famous Indian ornithologist, Salim Ali in 1972 (4).
Under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act all species of fruit bat are classified as pests and it is therefore legal to persecute them outside of protected reserves (5). Fruit bats are perceived as pests simply because they visit orchards, although they actually tend to feed on over-ripe fruit and do not pose a threat (3)(4)(6).
In 1999 and 2000, research into the population status, distribution and conservation of this species was carried out by Dr G. Agoramoorthy of the SMGM Foundation (India) and Sun Yat-Sen University (Taiwan) (4). Forty-six individuals were captured during the study, most of which were located in a private coffee cardamon plantation. The results of this study are to be used to identify new conservation areas in the Western Ghats. During the study, public awareness of Salim Ali's fruit bat was raised through a number of initiatives including the production of a book called 'Facts on Bats: An Introduction to the Bats of Tamilnadu State' and the local field assistants were given training on fruit bats (5)(4). The Chiropterological Society of India was recently formed to increase communication and coordination of the effort to save India's bats (3).
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