Although associated with bad connotations by the Bhutanese, bats are pollinisers, seed dispersers, and pest controllers and are as important as any other animal in the ecology.

According to one of the researchers at the Bhutan Ecological Symposium last week, Sangay Tshering, a lecturer at College of Natural Resources (CNR), said there was a possibility that many bats were undiscovered. “There is a lack of appropriate baseline information on bat diversity, geographic distribution and abundance.”

To date, only about four studies on bats exist in the country, he said. The study was conducted last year in Chukha and Punakha.

Sangay Tshering said that bats were the only flying mammals where it’s forelimbs were modified into wings.  “They even produce a fertiliser called bat guano. If you compare their ecological benefits to the harm, the harm accounts for just about 30 percent in contrast to 70 percent of what they are contributing to the ecology.”

One of the park managers at the symposium said that when it came to conservation and management, there were times when specific species needed to be prioritised. “It is not possible to conserve all species due to finance. So, we see if the species is at threat level. If the species is endangered globally or regionally, then we conserve these species.”

Sangay Tshering said that when he visited tunnels in Wangdue last year, there were a number of bats. “After certain disturbances, we tend to see less bats, which means there is disturbance both in diversity and abundance.”

He said that in Chukha, he captured about 157 bats. “But, I believe there are more of them. Even double or triple the number I caught.”

He said that climate change might also impact bats especially in their change of habitats. “For instance, only few bats were found in a cave at Bongo when in the previous visit more bats were sighted.”

During the course of the research, Sangay Tshering said that he documented five habitats of bats. “ Of the five habitats, forest and human settlements were habitats where bats were found in large numbers.”

Other habitat include caves and tree holes, he said.

Some of the recommendations include creating awareness on bat conservation for sustainable conservation of bats, monitoring activities such as mining, and community engagement in bat studies.

Rinchen Zangmo