A rare bat has been found in a tiny fragment of rainforest on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Conservationists say the discovery shows that even small remnants of forest are worth protecting.
Conservationists from the UK discovered the Ridley's leaf-nosed bat in a 740-acre (300-hectare) fragment of forest during a biodiversity survey in West Sumatra, Indonesia. Ridley's leaf-nosed bat (Hipposideros ridleyi) roosts in the cavities of trees (in hollows and cavities of standing trees, under fallen trees and logs) and is listed as "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.
The forest fragment is surrounded by a palm oil plantation. These plantations are often created on former forested area, and can encroach into areas that are important habitat for endangered species. Many other species were also found by the biodiversity survey, including the sun bear, tapir, agile gibbon and banded langur, all of which are also of conservation concern.
Palm oil producers must identify any areas that require conservation on land they own or farm, in accordance with High Conservation Values. They then must implement measures to maintain and enhance these values.
The area surveyed in Sumatra is currently managed as a conservation area by the palm oil company, limiting the impact of logging and encroachment on the forest fragment.
The effectiveness of emphasizing conservation in small forest fragments has been in doubt, but the researchers say the discovery agrees with an earlier study in the journal Conservation Letters that suggests it could be a tool for conserving certain species.
"The finding of this survey suggests that a network of forest fragments may be appropriate for some species of high conservation concern. The scientific community needs to continue to support the business community to find ways in which our threatened wildlife can persist in these managed areas over the long-term," said survey leader Matthew Struebig of Queen Mary, University of London and the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE – University of Kent).
A meeting held today (Nov. 8) in Jakarta, Indonesia, will further probe the issues of conservation and palm oil plantation expansion.
"Protecting large areas of connected forest will always be a priority for wildlife conservation, but if ambitious future plans for oil palm expansion are realized, conserving forest fragments within oil palm landscapes will also be important for maintaining Indonesia's biodiversity," said Sophie Persey of the Zoological Society of London and the and Oil Palm Project Manager.