Tracking Bats

How do fruit bats migrate and track resources within their ecosystem?

Many fruit bats are extremely mobile. On their nightly journey from their sleeping to eating locations, some cover over a hundred kilometers. They carry pollen and seeds over large distances and therefore contribute significantly to the pollination and proliferation of plants. Fruit bats thus play a key role in the natural renewal of forests and in human nutrition. They are also increasingly mentioned in the context of diseases, such as Ebola, but this has never been confirmed.

To understand their role as keystone ecosystem providers, detailed knowledge of their movement behavior is important. Researchers also know little about the impact of hunting and the destruction of their habitats on their population numbers.

Straw-colored fruit bats (Eidolon helvum) are the most common fruit bat in Africa and form large seasonal aggregations. Yet little is known about the connectivity of these colonies, what predicts their presence in different locations across Africa, or what role they have on ecosystems - all of these can only be determined by following individuals.

We will attach ICARUS tags to E. helvum to monitor their migration across Africa. ICARUS tags regularly communicate with and upload data to the International Space Station (ISS), allowing high-resolution GPS tracking of animals in remote areas.