The focus for the EWCL Bat Conservation Team was to develop guidelines for the sustainable harvest of bat guano. For as ecologically important as they are, bats are highly misunderstood. Their numbers are dropping worldwide, invasive guano harvesting being one of the culprits. With the guidance of Bat Conservation International, the team decided to focus their energies on the Southeast Asia region. In forming, then collaborating with an advisory committee of international bat specialists, a set of draft guidelines were developed, adapted into posters for educational outreach use, and tested at two field sites in Cambodia. This work was presented at a conference hosted by the Southeast Asian Bat Conservation Research Unit and was enthusiastically received. In order to continue to improve this work and make it universally applicable, a research agenda was created and will be made accessible on a forthcoming online resource page.
The focus for the EWCL Bat Conservation Team was to develop guidelines for the sustainable harvest of bat guano. For as ecologically important as they are, bats are highly misunderstood. Their numbers are dropping worldwide, invasive guano harvesting being one of the culprits. With the guidance of Bat Conservation International, the team decided to focus their energies on the Southeast Asia region. In forming, then collaborating with an advisory committee of international bat specialists, a set of draft guidelines were developed, adapted into posters for educational outreach use, and tested at two field sites in Cambodia.
With funding from the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium (Columbus, Ohio, USA), two teammates of the EWCL Bat Conservation Team traveled to Thailand to participate in the Southeast Asia Bat Conservation Research Unit’s (SEABCRU) annual conference. During the conference, Danielle Brigida and Ryan Richards presented the draft guano harvesting guidelines to the active SEABCRU membership, which include working biologists, students, and conservationists. Danielle and Ryan facilitated a discussion about the draft guidelines, additional research needs and examples from other conference participants about needs and potential field testing opportunities. They also presented the illustrated posters that were based on the guidelines in order to provide education at the community-level, specifically to educate bat guano harvesters on the importance of the guidelines.
In addition to participating in the conference, the EWCL team members also traveled to Cambodia where they were met by a group of researchers working with Dr. Neil Furey at Fauna and Flora International (FFI). FFI and the Cambodian graduate student researchers conducted one month of field testing at two different cave sites to see if the illustrated posters based on our guidelines were effective. The field testing was pivotal in helping FFI develop a relationship with one of the cave owners who is interested in including educational information and interpretative signs around his caves to draw attention to the value of bats to the many tourists who visit the cave each year.
The draft guidelines were developed in partnership with a scientific advisory committee and some of these committee members have begun presenting these guidelines to the IUCN Bat Cave Specialist Group and the Department of Natural Resources in the Philippines. In short, the guidelines developed by the EWCL Bat Conservation Team have helped catalyze international interest and momentum on the subject of guano harvesting as it relates to bat conservation. Key relationships are now in place for further field testing of the guidelines to take place, which will help meet criteria for formal adoption of the guidelines by the IUCN.
Bat Conservation International – Dave Waldien, Ph.D. (Project Advisor)
Acting Executive Director: Our chief partner that provided valuable guidance and resource connections.
Advisory Committee (for guidelines development)
- Dr. Dave Waldien – Acting Executive Director, Bat Conservation International
- Dr. Neil M. Furey – Head of Academic Development, Fauna & Flora International: Cambodia Program
- Dr. Nina R. Ingle – Philippine Liaison of Bat Conservation International
- Marlynn Mendoza – Philippines Department of Environment & Natural Resources
- Dr. Paul Racey – Professor Emeritus, University of Aberdeen, UK
A grouping of well-known, respected bat biologists that applied expert, scientific knowledge and validity to the draft set of sustainable bat guano harvesting guidelines.
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium ($4,500 grant): Principal funding partner; grant award given through the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium Conservation Fund in December 2011.
Mr. Grant Wheeler: Pro bono, graphic design services for illustrating the guano harvesting guidelines for development of educational posters used at community-level.
Dr. Tigga Kingston, Texas Tech University: Liaison between EWCL Bat Conservation Team and the Southeast Asian Bat Conservation Research Unit (SEABCRU).
How to Help
If you are a cave owner or a guano harvester, you can apply the Guidelines for Sustainable Bat Guano Harvesting in Southeast Asia to your own harvest activities with the aim of making sure your bat guano harvesting is done as sustainably as possible. For the moment the guidelines are general to the Southeast Asia region, but if you need help with adapting them to your situation, you can contact any one of the Key Project Liaisons (see contact information in section below).
If you are a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) or a University you can help disseminate the Guidelines for Sustainable Bat Guano Harvesting in Southeast Asia to interested communities in your region or country. You can also consider setting-up a pilot project similar to the one led EWCL/BCI/FFI led in Cambodia where the guidelines were specifically adapted to the local context and educational material (illustrated posters of each guidelines) developed for creating awareness at community-level.
If you are concerned about bats and want to help contribute to their protection, Bat Conservation International (BCI), a U.S.–based nonprofit organization is well-respected and you can find many resources and ideas of how to help bats on their website (www.batcon.org).