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Honour for University’s bat expertise

More than two decades of involvement in research and conservation in Madagascar by Professor Paul Racey from the University of Aberdeen have been recognised.


The event was held just days after the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources announced it was placing the endemic Malagasy fruit bat - Pteropus rufus - in the “vulnerable to extinction” category on its threatened species list.

The move came in the wake of work conducted by the Aberdeen team to establish the extent of the threats to the mammals by overhunting and habitat loss.

Professor Racey, who was the guest of honour at the reception, is delighted at the move: “This is a major achievement. Our aim over the last five years has been to get bats onto the conservation agenda in Madagascar and keep them there.

“Madagascar has nearly 40 species of bats and half of them are found nowhere else. The island’s largest bat - Pteropus rufus - is being eaten faster than it breeds. It appears on the menus of hotels and restaurants. It’s a serious problem because it is a key species as it disperses seeds and help to regenerate forests.”

Professor Racey, the University’s Regius Professor of Natural History, has had links with Madagascar since 1980. He has overseen a number of projects including the work of three Aberdeen PhD students and three Postdoctoral Fellows working on Darwin initiative projects. This includes sponsoring 20 Malagasy students who have been studying for the equivalent of a Masters degree.

Professor Racey added: “It was a great honour to have a reception to mark our involvement in Madagascar – it was a life-affirming occasion.

“Thanks to the British Government’s Darwin Initiative, which has funded our work over the last five years, we have built up a team of trained staff to carry on our efforts to conserve the local biodiversity.

“Our next aim is to establish a non-governmental organisation to consolidate our bat conservation work. To achieve success for species traditionally considered as food, we will continue our efforts to involve local communities and educate the public and the tourism potential of bat roosts will also be explored.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

Issued by the Communications Team, Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen. Tel: (01224) 272014.

Issued on: Wednesday 15th of December 2004

Ref: 1557bats
Contact: Jennifer Phillips

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