Trefoil horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus trifoliatus)

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Trefoil horseshoe bat, from below
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Trefoil horseshoe bat fact file

Trefoil horseshoe bat description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderChiroptera
FamilyRhinolophidae
GenusRhinolophus (1)

This striking and charismatic bat is identifiable by its yellow noseleaf and long, soft, fluffy, greyish-brown fur. The elbows, knees and ears are also yellow, deepening in colour with age. The wings are a light, almost orangey, brown, and the membrane also stretches between the hind legs, enclosing most of the tail. As a member of the horseshoe bat family, the noseleaf of this species is shaped like a horseshoe, with a projection that looks somewhat like a horn above it called the connecting process (3). This probably serves to focus the ultrasonic pulses during echolocation. The ears are large to receive the echoes (4).

Synonyms
Rhinolophus edax, Rhinolophus niasensis, Rhinolophus soliatarius.
Size
Head-body length: 51 - 64 mm (2)
Tail length: 30 - 44 mm (2)
Forearm length: 40 - 57 mm (2)
Weight
8 - 20 g (2)
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Trefoil horseshoe bat biology

An insectivore, the trefoil horseshoe bat catches its prey by ‘perch hunting’; it hangs from a branch at a height of around three metres above the forest floor, with a clearing beneath, and waits for insects to pass. Once it has detected them using echolocation, emitted from the noseleaf, it drops from the perch and pursues the insect, returning to a hanging position to eat it (2) (3). This species uses long pulses of a constant frequency to detect the flutter of an insect’s wings (4).

The trefoil horseshoe bat gives birth to a single pup which it suckles for several months before the pup is able to fly and catch insects alone. The pup begins life weighing two to five grams; a large proportion of its mother’s weight. By one year of age it is fully grown and ready to have a pup of its own (3).

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Trefoil horseshoe bat range

The trefoil horseshoe bat is historically recorded in Brunei, north east India, south west Thailand, Indonesia (Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra), Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak, and Sabah), Singapore, Burma, Riau Archipelago, Banguey Island, Banka Island and Nias Island (Indonesia), but updated surveys are required to confirm populations (1) (5).

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Trefoil horseshoe bat habitat

Occupying forests, including peat swamp and mangroves, the trefoil horseshoe bat feeds amongst the vegetation of the understorey and roosts there alone under dead leaves and palms. It has also been found in caves (2).

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Trefoil horseshoe bat status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Trefoil horseshoe bat threats

The predominant threat to the trefoil horseshoe bat is habitat loss by deforestation for timber or agriculture. Extensive amounts of forest have been lost in the last 20 years due to a rapid increase in land devoted to commodity agriculture (for example cocoa, coffee, oil palm, rice and rubber). In Malaysia and Indonesia there has recently been a large amount of deforestation in order to produce oil palm. Together, Malaysia and Indonesia export 88 percent of the world’s palm oil, for use in products such as margarine, lipstick and detergent. Deforestation continues at a steady rate for conversion to agricultural land and building communities, and despite the contribution of many bats in the control of insect crop pests, persecution of bats is also a threat (6).

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Trefoil horseshoe bat conservation

Deforestation for agriculture, particularly for oil palm plantations in recent years in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, is an issue of major concern for many forest-dwelling species, even within so-called protected areas. Regarding oil palm, some companies and large retailers have agreed to source palm oil from sustainable sources via a certification process developed by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil. The principal criterion relevant to biodiversity is that new plantations have not been established on land of High Conservation Value (6). Many scientific and charitable groups contribute to bat monitoring and local education programmes that can help to reduce persecution and raise awareness of the natural assets of the land (3).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For further information on palm oil see:

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Authentication

Authenticated (03/10/08) by Matt Struebig, Queen Mary University of London.
http://webspace.qmul.ac.uk/mstruebig

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Glossary

Echolocation
Detecting objects by reflected sound. Used for orientation and detecting and locating prey by bats and cetacea (whales and dolphins).
Insectivore
Insect eating species.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Kingston, T., Liat, L.B. and Akbar, Z. (2006) Bats of Krau Wildlife Reserve. Penerbit UKM, Bangi.
  3. Maltby, A. (2005) Pers. comm.
  4. Altringham, J. (2001) Bats: Biology and Behaviour. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Simmons, N.B. (2005) Order Chiroptera. In: Wilson, D.E. and Reeder, D.E. (Eds) Mammal species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, Third Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA.
  6. Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (December, 2007)
    http://www.rspo.org
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Image credit

Trefoil horseshoe bat, from below  
Trefoil horseshoe bat, from below

© Alanna Collen

Alanna Collen
alanna.collen@gmail.com

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