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Project Completion

Project Tittle

Effect of Extreme Heat on Indian flying foxes (Pteropus medius) and their role in AMR Spillover in Pakistan

The project “Effect of Extreme Heat on Indian Flying Foxes and their potential role in Antimicrobial Spillover” is completed on 13th August 2021. During this summer project which lasted for 78 days, from 24th May 2021 to 13 August 2021, we worked hard to find how extreme heat is impacting Indian flying foxes in Pakistan and more generally in its entire geographical niche. Here are our objectives:

We aimed to find temperature threshold for the first time, that results in heat stress related deaths of flying foxes in Indian Subcontinent.

Documenting various Heat Stress Behaviors in Indian Flying foxes.

Role of landscape variables in Heat Stress for flying foxes.

Cortisol variation in relation with heat stress

Relationship of Bacterial shedding in feces with Heat Stress

AMR Spillover in relation with heat stress

Cross Sectional Survey to Identify Historic Die offs, Dietary Ecology and Bat Human Conflict.

This project study rooting sites are located in eight different areas, across two provinces and capital territory of Pakistan. Details about the study areas are as following:

G-11 Sector Islamabad, Capital Territory of Pakistan

Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan

Changa Manga, Kasur, Punjab, Pakistan

Head Dhumakee, Mailse, Vehari, Punjab, Pakistan

Sailanwali, Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan

Khanpur Dam, Haripur, KPK, Pakistan

Hattar Road, Haripur, KPK, Pakistan

Gari Habibullah, Manshera, KPK, Pakistan

This Project research fieldwork is made possible with our team of graduate and undergraduate students from various higher education institutions of Pakistan. Here is the detail about these amazing fieldwork and lab work assistants along with their institutional affiliation.

Adeel Kazam (Mphil) University of Punjab, Lahore)

Mamoona Arshad (DVM) College of Veterinary & Animal Sciences – CVAS Jhang)

Mudassar Hussain (Mphil) University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore)

Wajahat Ali (Mphil) (University of Haripur)

Shamran Ullah (BS) (University of Haripur)

Abdul Ali (DVM), University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore)

Muhammad Nauman Faisal (Mphil) University of Punjab, Lahore)

Ahmed Bilal (Mphil) (University of Punjab, Lahore)

Yashua Sohial (Mphil) University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore

Muhammad Armaghan Shahzad (DVM, MS) COMSATS University, Islamabad

Ayesha Javid (Mphil) University of Agriculture, Faisalabad

Fieldwork is designed to provide the student with an opportunity for a practical, “real world” experience for the purpose of developing direct leadership, programming, and administrative skills sufficient for entry into a professional career. These students were trained in basic research methodologies needed for this project including

Data Collection, Data Entry, Data Management

Fecal Sample Collection, Fecal Sample Shipment

Video Scan Sampling

Landscape Data Recording

Cross-Sectional Survey through Structured Questionnaire

Results of the project will be shared in publications.

Please feel free to reach out to the Principal Investigator of this Project at [email protected] for any additional information about the project.

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Over 400 Indian Flying Foxes were killed in Nawab Shah, Sindh, Pakistan.

These bats were believed to be a serious pest for fruits trees of Mango and Banana in Sindh Province of Pakistan. This is not surprising, as orchards represent a concentrated and accessible source of food for flying-foxes, rendered more attractive as a large proportion of their native food trees have been cleared.

The ‘killing’ approach to crop protection has a long history, but know considered as inhumane, expensive and ineffective measure and that the problems were exaggerated when mass shooting of these fruits bats were practiced. This mass killing of flying foxes has serious wildlife conservation implications.

As indicated by endemic Mauritian flying fox Pteropus niger which was perceived to be a major fruit pest. Lobbying of the Government of Mauritius by fruit growers to control the flying fox population resulted in national culls in 2015 and 2016. A loss of c. 38,318 individuals has been reported and the species is now categorized as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

We urge Pakistan government to Stop this inhumane killing of flying foxes and adopt following measures to protect fruits crops and bats, which play vital role in their growth of your fruits crops, for which people are killing them.

Netting of fruit tree is successful in reducing the damage caused by bats. To avoid entangling of bats and fruit damage through the net, it is advised to make the net as conspicuous as possible against the tree. Use of white rather than black nets is recommended.

Installing light bulbs on every tree to illuminate the area and make it less attractive to the bats.

Using plastic flags placed above the tree canopy.

Firecrackers and shotguns to frighten the bats.

Pruning trees could minimize the impact bats have on fruit crops.

Planting native non commercial trees such as figs or mulberries on the boundary of orchard, will reduce the impact of damage by fruit bats.

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EARTHDAY.ORG and Batcon Pakistan Join Hands

Earthday and Batcon Pakistan join hands for Biodiversity Conservation and Restoration in Pakistan

EARTHDAY.ORG and Batcon Pakistan Join hand to achieve a shared goal of Biodiversity Conservation and Restoration of Natural Habitat and Conditions for Wildlife in Pakistan. EARTHDAY.ORG’s mission is to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide. Growing out of the first Earth Day in 1970, EARTHDAY.ORG is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 75,000 partners in over 190 countries to drive positive action for our planet.

The Conservation and Biodiversity program will amplify and accelerates transformative societal change to restore and protect biodiversity. This program educates and raises awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon. The program is dedicated for the enduring protection of wildlife and their habitats and creating a world in which wildlife and humans successfully coexist through effective engagement.

During the next five years Batcon Pakistan and EARTHDAY.ORG will work together in Pakistan to respond rapidly and effectively to bat conservation crises, preventing the extinction and extirpation of threatened bats as well as adopt proactive approach for curbing bat’s born zoonotic disease spillover event through effective engagement at each level. We will educate key communities and the public at large on the importance of wildlife, especially bats.

Bats are an ecologically and taxonomically diverse group accounting for roughly a fifth of mammalian diversity worldwide. Many of the threats bats face (e.g., habitat loss, bushmeat hunting, and climate change) reflect the conservation challenges of our era. However, compared to other mammals and birds, significantly less is known about the population status of most bat species, which makes prioritizing and planning conservation actions challenging.

 Over a third of bat species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) are considered threatened or data deficient, and well over half of the species have unknown or decreasing population trends. That equals 988 species, or 80% of bats assessed by IUCN, needing conservation or research attention. Delivering conservation to bat species will require sustained efforts to assess population status and trends and address data deficiencies. Successful bat conservation must integrate research and conservation to identify stressors and their solutions and to test the efficacy of actions to stabilize or increase populations. Global and regional networks that connect researchers, conservation practitioners, and local stakeholders to share knowledge, build capacity, and prioritize and coordinate research and conservation efforts, are vital to ensuring sustainable bat populations worldwide.

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A New Research Project Will Explore How Extreme Heat Events Impact Indian Flying Foxes in Pakistan

Bat Conservation Pakistan is going to conduct a research on Indian flying foxes in Pakistan. This one year project aims to explore how extreme heat events are impacting Indian flying foxes (Pteropus medius) in Pakistan. This project will help in determining temperature thresholds that precipitate heat stress in Indian flying foxes (Pteropus medius) at the roost level. This project will explore how the presence and distance of different landscape variables influences heat stress.

We will also see how weather patterns impact the thermoregulatory behaviours of Indian flying foxes. At the end, Habitat Suitability Models for other roosting sites will be generated by using these studied variables. Lastly, we will conduct interviews of the local population to identify historic die offs and dietary ecology of Indian flying foxes in Pakistan.

There is a well-established relationship between climate change and the intensity and frequency of extreme heat events. It creates wildlife conservation challenges, especially for flying foxes, large fruit-eating bats in the genus Pteropus and related genera, due to their open-roosting behaviour and lower thermodynamic tolerance. Extreme heat events had resulted in mass die offs of flying foxes in many parts of the world. Notably, a heat wave on January 04, 2014 claimed 45,500 flying-foxes’ lives when the temperature passed a threshold of 42℃ in Australia.

Indian flying foxes. Photo Source: RJ Shilx

The Indian flying fox (Pteropus medius) population is declining throughout its geographic range. Moreover, extreme heat events and local extinction of flying foxes in the southern region of Pakistan seem to be related. Pakistan is the fifth-most severely affected country by climate change worldwide, with over 150 extreme weather events in the last decade. These extreme heat events have claimed the lives of hundreds of people and domestic animals, and they are expected to increase and become widespread in the central and northern region of Pakistan. Therefore, predicting potential places and times of elevated risk of heat-related die-offs for wildlife, especially flying foxes, is of great conservation value, by allowing timely mitigation plans in Pakistan.

Heat stressed bats exhibit a series of thermoregulatory behaviours (wing fanning, belly soaking, clustering, clumping, wrist licking) that bats use to mitigate the negative effects of heat through evaporative cooling. The onset and duration of these behaviours provide measures of physiological stress, which can modulate their fertility, metabolism, and immune function. We will record thermoregulatory behaviours and characterize flying foxes heat stress intensity using standardized scoring system.

Understanding the effect of landscape variables, weather patterns and availability of nutritional resources that might buffer the effects of extreme heat events on flying-foxes’ thermoregulation has the potential to inform timely mitigation strategies in both the short and long term. We will generate habitat suitability and heat stress models for other Pteropus medius roost sites by using these study variables.

Indian flying foxes enjoying native fruits near Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan. Photo Source: RJ Shilx

Flying foxes can also be studied as a good bioindicator of heat stress for other wildlife that is more cryptic or occurs in smaller numbers, due to their lower thermodynamic tolerance and a well-defined thermoregulatory behavior. The generated database will provide one of the first and long-term roosts temperatures and thermoregulatory behaviour data which can be used for short- or long-term conservation action on identified heat stressed, vulnerable roosts in Pakistan.

Principle Investigator: Dr. Touseef Ahmed is a Ph.D. Scholar in Kingston Lab at Texas Tech University, USA. He is currently working on Extreme Heat Event-related bats’ die-offs and developing bats habitat suitability models to predict zoonotic disease spillovers in Pakistan. He is looking at bats’ population dynamics and community ecology. His interests lie at the nexus of conservation biology, disturbance ecology, disease ecology, and wildlife-human interactions. He has a keen interest in applying principles of disease ecology to understand how human disturbance can promote vulnerability to pathogen transmission between hosts and potential spillover events into other wildlife, livestock, and humans. His long-term goal is to understand how human manipulation of the environment can have detrimental effects on wildlife health and the prevalence and dynamics of zoonotic diseases in wildlife species.

Team Descriptions

  1. Dr. Tigga Kingston – She is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Texas Tech University, USA. She is also Co-Chair of the IUCN Bat Specialist Group and Global Union of Bat Diversity Networks (GBatNet).
  2. Dr. Arshad Javid–He is an Associate Professor and Chairman of the Department of Wildlife and Fishery, University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Pakistan. His research work focuses on Chiropteran biodiversity in tropical and arid-subtropical regions of Pakistan.
  3. Dr. Muhammad Naeem Awan – He is a well published ecologist and conservationist, currently working as a country coordinator of Earth Day Network, Pakistan.
  4. Dr Sajida Noureen–She is an Assistant Professor in Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management, University of Haripur, Pakistan. She worked on different aspects of bats, including bat ecological studies, bat reproduction and roosting habitat.
  5. Dr. Ubaid ur Rahman Zia–He is a Lecturer in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Pakistan. He is an infectious disease epidemiologist.
  6. Maria Shaukat–She is an Assistant Scientific Officer at Biological Production Division of National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad. She is working at rabies vaccine production lab of NIH.
  7. Dr. Furrukh Bashir – He is a scientific officer in Research and Development Division of the Pakistan Meteorological Department. His area of research work is climate change induced extreme heat events and their impacts on humans and biodiversity.
  8. Dr.Muhammad Farooq Tahir – He is working as Technical Adviser One Health for Health Security Partners, Washington DC, USA. He is actively involve in giving his inputs for Public Health Policy in Pakistan

Find More About This Project

https://www.rufford.org/projects/touseef-ahmed/effect-extreme-heat-indian-flying-foxes-pteropus-medius-pakistan/?fbclid=IwAR2rM37SKBFfkjiter7Y_L_vukzdgH1s5tkOfDczR6zYql59m1hbYOxU_HM

https://www.batcon.org/press/scholars-expand-research-capabilities-for-global-bat-conservation/?fbclid=IwAR16tB9-6kzq3ZOLQ9OmsI2vVwRH__PFqgYeg3snsn2ZdyYatjW5mvoTR0Q

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