Small Mammal Conservation Organisation (SMACON) announced on Wednesday that a research team has discovered 10 species of bats which have never been seen in Nigerian forest.
The team’s claim is contained in a statement signed and circulated on Wednesday by Ms. Esther Nosazeogie, Communications Manager for (SMACON).
The discovery was made by a team led by Dr. Irori Tanshi, an award winning bat specialist, after 15 months of intensive survey using mist-nets and harp traps to catch bats.
SMACON said Tanshi-led team combed through the forests of Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and Cross River National Park (Okwangwo Division) in Cross River from May 2015 to January 2018 to carry out their intensive bat survey.
90 species of bats were known to occur in Nigeria before now, according to the report.
The report also stated that the number represented almost a third of the different species of bats known to occur in Africa.
”This survey was not only effective in increasing Nigeria’s bat species to 100, but it has also shown us why it is important to protect our remaining forests, and increase our research efforts,” it stated.
Dr Inaoyom Imong, the Director of Nigeria’s Cross River Landscape Programme at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the findings would, hopefully, ”cause people to realise that we need to do more to protect these key biodiversity sites”.
”As a Nigerian, as somebody from Cross River, I’m particularly happy to see these findings. It goes to say that there’s a lot more to learn from my forest in terms of biodiversity.
”You are not going to find the complement of species that you find here elsewhere in the world, so having their habitat intact is critical,” Tanshi, the Director of Research at SMACON and author of the report, said.
The report noted that Nigeria’s land was ecologically diverse with many different types of habitat.
It also identified one of the habitat types as a forest block extending from South-eastern Nigeria to South-western Cameroon and the largest of the six most significant hotspots of bat diversity in Africa.
It said that although the forest block, including the surveyed Afi and Okwango forests in south-eastern Nigeria, had been predicted to contain little-known species of bats, its Nigerian part had not received a lot of research attention, especially compared to its Cameroonian part.
”Of the 36 bat species recorded in this new survey, 10 were new country records, including an endangered species (Hipposideros curtus), and six were species for which there were insufficient information with which to assess their conservation status (categorised by the IUCN as data-deficient).
”As a result of Tanshi’s efforts, the endangered bat is now receiving a lot of attention so that work is being done to save it from extinction,” the report stated.
”If 15 months of a carefully planned survey by a small research team has updated the knowledge of African bats by yielding 10 new bat species for Nigeria, some of which are of conservation concern, it is evident that much more biodiversity waits to be discovered in previously unsampled places.
”This study clearly shows that we need to scale up forest research and conservation efforts in Nigeria, especially in biodiversity-rich areas that have not been surveyed extensively for biodiversity.
”Ironically, these rich forests are threatened with destruction and unsustainable use,” the report added.
Research experts and conservationists also commented on the discovery
”It’s a really solid foundation for future ecological and conservation work because we can’t protect any biodiversity if we don’t know what’s there in the first place”, said Tigga Kingston, Professor at Texas Tech University, and one of the paper’s authors.
”It’s very important to get out in the field and do that type of survey work”, said Liza Gadsby, Director of Pandrillus Foundation, a conservation NGO that works to protect endangered primates in Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary.
Prof. Kingston said: ”So the ground has been broken and the foundation has been laid; that’s not the end of it. It is only the beginning.”
”Some bat species, and other biodiversity, yet unknown, may be living on the brink of extinction.
”They are waiting for another young Nigerian knight in shining armour, following in Tanshi’s footsteps, to save the day.
”Hopefully, this research would also inspire other researchers to pay more attention to the region and maybe inspire younger researchers as well to take an interest in bat research.
”There’s a lot to learn. This is one study which has found 10 new recruits for Nigeria.
”I will imagine how many more records we could potentially find with increased survey effort. So overall, I think this is really good news for Nigeria,” Imong said.