Bats of Papua New Guinea

3/29/1999

New Addition to Field Guide Series on Wildlife in the Tropics

Washington, DC - Some of the world's most misunderstood mammals are the subject of the newest edition of Conservation International's (CI) Tropical Field Guide Series. Bats of Papua New Guinea is an easy-to-use, pocket-sized guide filled with information on these animals and their island habitat.

The 489-page book, authored by bat expert, Dr. Frank Bonaccorso, is filled with descriptions and classifications of the 91 bat species found in Papua New Guinea. The guide also includes details of the discovery, diet, and distribution of each bat species as well its conservation status. While some bat species are abundant and widespread, others, like Bulmer's fruit bats (Aproteles bulmerae), are critically endangered due to human activities such as hunting, habitat loss, and cave disturbance.

"The field guide is one of the ways CI is bringing attention to Papua New Guinea's remarkable biological diversity," says Dr. Russell A. Mittermeier, president of CI and editor of the field guide series. "One of the aims of this field guide series is to encourage the development of ecotourism as a way to help protect the environment while creating economic benefits for local people."

CI's Tropical Field Guide Series was also created with the of idea making wildlife-watching as popular as bird-watching. A checklist for bat watchers can be found at the back of the book.

The field guide reveals some fascinating information about bats, including the fact that bats outnumber all other native mammal species in Papua New Guinea, including rodents and marsupials. More than one new bat species has been described in the country each decade since the late 1880's, the most recent in 1995. Also, some of the smallest and largest bat species in the world can be found in Papua New Guinea. Among the largest is the greater flying fox (Pteropus neohibernicus), which has a wingspan of more than 5 feet and can weigh up to 3.5 pounds. The lesser sheat-tailed bat (Mosia nigrescens) is smallest of the native bats and weighs only around 0.08 ounces.

The island nation of Papua New Guinea is approximately the size of California and contains some of the largest and most important remaining blocks of tropical forest wilderness. It also claims some of the least disturbed coral reef systems left on Earth. Papua New Guinea has an extremely diverse culture - an estimated 875 distinct languages are still spoken there. The combination of its rich biodiversity and cultural heritage makes Papua New Guinea a high conservation priority.

Mittermeier authored the first book in the series, Lemurs of Madagascar, which was published in 1994. Forthcoming issues of CI's Tropical Field Guide Series will include Monkeys of the Guianas, Primates of Colombia, and Psittacines of Colombia.

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