Long-distance and frequent movements of the flying-fox Pteropus poliocephalus: implications for management

PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e42532. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042532. Epub 2012 Aug 3.

Abstract

Flying-foxes (Pteropodidae) are large bats capable of long-distance flight. Many species are threatened; some are considered pests. Effective conservation and management of flying-foxes are constrained by lack of knowledge of their ecology, especially of movement patterns over large spatial scales. Using satellite telemetry, we quantified long-distance movements of the grey-headed flying-fox Pteropus poliocephalus among roost sites in eastern Australia. Fourteen adult males were tracked for 2-40 weeks (mean 25 weeks). Collectively, these individuals utilised 77 roost sites in an area spanning 1,075 km by 128 km. Movement patterns varied greatly between individuals, with some travelling long distances. Five individuals travelled cumulative distances >1,000 km over the study period. Five individuals showed net displacements >300 km during one month, including one movement of 500 km within 48 hours. Seasonal movements were consistent with facultative latitudinal migration in part of the population. Flying-foxes shifted roost sites frequently: 64% of roost visits lasted <5 consecutive days, although some individuals remained at one roost for several months. Modal 2-day distances between consecutive roosts were 21-50 km (mean 45 km, range 3-166 km). Of 13 individuals tracked for >12 weeks, 10 moved >100 km in one or more weeks. Median cumulative displacement distances over 1, 10 and 30 weeks were 0 km, 260 km and 821 km, respectively. On average, over increasing time-periods, one additional roost site was visited for each additional 100 km travelled. These findings explain why culling and relocation attempts have had limited success in resolving human-bat conflicts in Australia. Flying-foxes are highly mobile between camps and regularly travel long distances. Consequently, local control actions are likely to have only temporary effects on local flying-fox populations. Developing alternative methods to manage these conflicts remains an important challenge that should be informed by a better understanding of the species' movement patterns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Migration / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Australia
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Nesting Behavior / physiology
  • Pest Control*
  • Satellite Communications
  • Seasons
  • Time Factors

Grants and funding

This study was part funded by the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management and by a PhD scholarship awarded by Griffith University to BR. New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (Grafton) provided additional in-kind support. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. No additional external funding received for this study.