Samal's little angels: A woman's mission to save Philippine bats

The Island-City of Samal in the southern Philippines has about seventy caves, which used to be teeming with bats.

But now, most of these caves are empty and silent.

In some parts of the island, bats are hunted for food by people—particularly for "pulutan."

They are also sometimes killed out of superstitious fear.

Their natural homes are disturbed because of guano mining and swiftlet nest collection.

Bats are also threatened by natural predators like snakes, and calamities like earthquakes and forest fires.

But thanks to the efforts of nature conservationist Norma Monfort, there's a haven for Samals' bats: a 280-meter-long cave tucked away from public incursion.

'Angels of the night'

Monfort, who is the founder and president of the Monfort Bat Cave and Conservation Foundation, considers bats are the front-line warriors against climate change. “They are pollinators,” she points out.

“They maintain so many species of plants, trees and fruits that are habitats for other important species.

If we lose them completely, we stand a great chance to never again enjoy the wonderful fruits and plants we have today.”

“Angels of the night” is what she calls these gentle nocturnal creatures.

“They are angels because the service they do for humanity and the environment is invaluable,” she explains.

“They have always been the major agents of reforestation.”

There are more than 1,100 bat species in the world, but the Philippines is home to 26 indigenous bat species—more than any other country.

But sadly, most of these bats are threatened.

“The threat to bats in the Philippines is quite serious considering that very little literatures and researches have been published about them,” says Monfort.

“In addition, bats are still misunderstood until now.

In fact, only very few Filipinos are aware about the importance of bats to the environment and to our economy.

Because of this, it is much easier for people to hunt bats down because they feel bats are dispensable.”

The bats that inhabit Monfort’s place are called Geoffroy’s rousette fruit bats, known scientifically as Rousettus amplexicaudatus.
A life with bats

The fruit bats have been a part of Monfort's life for as long as she could remember.

She was barely a toddler when her family would seek shelter inside the cave during the Second World War.

Japanese war planes would circle around Samal Island before bombing the adjacent Davao.

“Together with some of our neighbors, we would run to the backyard cave,” she recalls.

Growing up with bats in her backyard made her love and care for these creatures.

Fortunately, she was able to do so after she inherited the land from her parents.

But due to agrarian reform laws, which limit individual ownership of agricultural land, she faces losing the bats' nesting grounds.

And so she raised her own funds to bring scientists from Bat Conservation International (BCI) over to her cave to advise her on the best way to ensure the continued protection of her beloved bats.

Together with BCI and six other government and non-governmental organizations, Monfort signed an agreement protecting the cave as the Monfort Bat Conservation Park in 2006.

Within six months, Monfort also created Philippines Bat Conservation, an environmental group that reaches beyond her colony to promote conservation of all Philippine bat species.
World record holder

In 2010, the Guinness Book of World Records officially declared the cave to contain the world's biggest colony of fruit bats, estimated at around 1.8 million.

Early the following year, an American cave-mapping expedition stumbled upon an unusually high number of pregnant bats in the Monfort bat colony. The species does not usually give birth in the first month of the year, making the discovery a “big surprise” and forcing the scientists to halt their mapping project, Monfort reports.

The cause of the bat baby boom is still unknown.

However, Monfort suspects one factor may be that the cave is protected from humans as an ecotourism site, which allows their numbers to grow.

Today, an estimated 2.4 million bats taking refuge at the cave.


Furthering conservation

In 2011, Monfort was honored as one of the “Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund Conservation Heroes.”

The award is bestowed to “extraordinary individuals who are passionate about protecting animals and habitats in areas of critical concern.”

Winning the award, Momfort said, means helping further the cause of bat conservation in the country and elsewhere.

In a letter to friends, she wrote: “That I have been given this recognition is simply signaling more work lies ahead for me using this ‘tool’ and putting it into good use… There is so much to be accomplished that I plan to leave behind for the children of the world.”

— TJD, GMA News

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Pacmania sweeps Philippines ahead of Mayweather clash
    Pacmania sweeps Philippines ahead of Mayweather clash

    Manny Pacquiao's face is on shirts, dolls and postage stamps, his life story is playing in movie houses and millions are getting ready to party as the Philippine boxing hero's "fight of the century" nears. Pacmania is sweeping the Southeast Asian nation of 100 million people ahead of the May 2 Las Vegas bout against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather to decide who is the best boxer of their generation. Of course, it's the fight of the century," Manila film producer Lucky Blanco told AFP. …

  • Ex-Cavite governor gets PCSO top post
    Ex-Cavite governor gets PCSO top post

    After nearly a year, President Aquino finally made good his promise to a long-time ally – former Cavite governor and congressman Erineo Maliksi – to head the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), replacing Margarita Juico who resigned in May 2014. Maliksi must be officially elected by the PCSO board members as their chairman. Prior to his appointment to the PCSO, Maliksi faced graft charges before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the alleged illegal purchase of P2.5 million worth …

  • US, Phl military exercises to focus on sea defense
    US, Phl military exercises to focus on sea defense

    A massive deployment of aircraft, personnel and warships characterizes this year’s Balikatan between the two allies, which war games were launched 30 years ago. Commander Lued Lincuna, Philippine Navy public affairs chief, said the Marine Battalion Landing Team-4 (MBLT-4) will link  up with the US 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force. …

  • P-Noy seeking united Asean stand on China
    P-Noy seeking united Asean stand on China

    With China’s actions threatening to “considerably alter the way of doing business globally,” President Aquino will ask the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take a united stand against Beijing’s massive reclamation activities and other provocative acts in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea. Aquino will raise the appeal to his ASEAN counterparts when they meet on April 27-28 in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi in Malaysia. Beijing reacted immediately to the plan, saying the …

  • OIC exec backs BBL, says passage to end extremism
    OIC exec backs BBL, says passage to end extremism

    The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) yesterday backed the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), warning that failure to see the peace process through with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) could open the door to extremism. OIC secretary-general Iyad Bin Amin Madani, who is in the country to rally support for the peace process and the BBL, told reporters at the Senate yesterday that the Philippines should not waste the opportunity to attain lasting peace in Mindanao, especially …

  • Senate plan to probe corruption in judiciary opposed
    Senate plan to probe corruption in judiciary opposed

    The head of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) is opposing the plan of the Senate to investigate alleged “justice for sale” in the judiciary. In an interview yesterday, IBP national president Vicente Joyas contested the pronouncement of Senate President Franklin Drilon that the Senate Blue Ribbon committee can probe the reported corruption in the judiciary, as it remains part of the scope of the Senate’s investigative power. “The plan of the Senate to push through with the …

  • PNP: Floyd camp charging P.2 M for pay-per-view
    PNP: Floyd camp charging P.2 M for pay-per-view

    The camp of Floyd Mayweather is reportedly charging the Philippine National Police P200,000 for a pay-per-view deal of his fight with Manny Pacquiao, a PNP official said yesterday. Director Danilo Constantino, the PNP’s Chief Directorial Staff, said the cost of the pay-per-view for the fight makes it difficult for the PNP to sponsor the free viewing for its personnel and their dependents at Camp Crame’s multi-purpose center. “We are currently negotiating for the pay-per-view and we ever …

  • No disruption in gun permit issuance – PNP
    No disruption in gun permit issuance – PNP

    There has been no disruption in the issuance of permits to carry firearms outside residence (PTCFOR) since former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima was suspended in December 2014, an official said yesterday. PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina is the one signing the PTCFOR cards, PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr. said. Cerbo, however, could not say when Espina started signing the cards and how many PTCFORs have …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options