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Thursday, January 8

Colonies of rare Wroughton’s Free-tailed Bats spotted from Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya

Wroughton’s Free-tailed Bat (Otomops wroughtoni)
[Image:By Kalyanvarma (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

Researchers located three new roosts of the rare Wroughton’s Free-tailed Bat (Otomops wroughtoni), from Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya in the North Eastern India. According to the researchers, this rare bat species is so far known only by three records –from Meghalaya, Western Ghats of India and from Cambodia. 

The researchers have spotted the bat colonies while undertaking an exploration facilitated by the Meghalaya Adventures Association to identify new caves in the south-western parts of the Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya. While exploring these caves which are located in a 15 kilometer radius around the village Lakadong, the researchers have found different bat species in 13 caves. Among these, they were able to spot Wroughton’s Free-tailed Bat from two caves situated near Pynurkba and Umlatdoh villages. Though they were able to detect the sound signals of the bats from a third cave, they were not able to spot the bats since it was a very narrow crevice. According to the account of the researchers, which is published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa, the roosts have at least 90 members.

The new discovery is very important for the conservation of these bats because so far only a single breeding colony of these bats were reported. Presently, the species is considered under Data Deficient category by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), due to scarcity of records about their presence. The colony which was spotted in Barapede caves of the Western Ghats earlier, were estimated to have up to 70 members. So the present discovery almost doubles the known population of this rare bat. 

However, the researchers who have spotted the colonies, have also shared their concerns over the conservation aspect since the area from which the new bat colonies have spotted are under the threat of rapidly expanding lime stone mining. Increased logging and expanding areca nut cultivation in the area may also threaten the newly discovered habitat of these rare bats, they said. 

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