Wildlife conservationist mulls building man-made caves for fruit bats in Samal Island

Published October 2, 2020, 12:37 PM

by Antonio Colina IV

DAVAO CITY – A wildlife conservation advocate is planning to build man-made caves to provide additional shelters for the growing population of fruit bats at the overcrowded Monfort Bat Cave in Barangay Tambo, Babak, Island Garden City of Samal, which is home to the largest single colony of Geoffroy’s Rousette Fruit Bats in the world, according to the Guiness Book of World Records.

The Monfort Bat Cave is located in Barangay Tambo, Babak, Island Garden City of Samal. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MANILA BULLETIN)

In an interview, Norma Monfort, founder and president of Monfort Bat Cave and Conservation Foundation, estimated that the population of bats surged to over 2.5 million recently from the 1.8 million recorded in 2006.

Monfort said the congestion was causing stress on bats, as many of them could no longer rest on the cave’s packed walls during daytime.

She said the bats, roosting near the cave’s five entrances, were vulnerable to predators such as crows, while those that rest near the ground were vulnerable to lizards, snakes, rats, stray dogs and cats.

The construction of the man-made bat caves, the first outside the United States, will be funded through a grant from the Rotary International, she said.

“I’ve been dreaming about it but there is no money. And, finally through rotary, I submitted this global grant and it’s approved, and just waiting for the funds. We’re going to build it in Samal,” she said.

She said that the construction was supposed to take place this year, but it had to be postponed because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

She said the man-caves would simulate conditions inside the existing bat cave, and would be fitted with a technology for the collection of guano without causing the animals any disturbance.

Monfort said she would prohibit the collection of guano inside the cave to avoid stressing the bats resting during daytime. 

“The collection of the guano—we will do it—and I can have a livelihood project, so that the community can benefit from packaging of this guano or any other thing,” she said.

Monfort said the artificial caves are planned to rise at the back of her mango orchard away from the existing bat cave within her family’s 21-hectare estate.

She said the construction would be done in the evening to avoid causing disturbances.

The bat droppings, or guano, are expensive potent fertilizers.

According to Bat Conservation International, the guano in caves “support whole ecosystems of unique organisms, including bacteria useful in detoxifying wastes, improving detergents, and producing alcohol and antibiotics.”

Monfort also asked for donations of container vans, which could also be converted into man-made caves.