Trapping Roosters (otherwise known as roosting bats)
Today our PREDICT team held a call with the Chief Ecologist of the PREDICT team in Cameroon Matthew Lebreton. Matthew is an expert on bat capture and handling, with lots of experience doing disease surveillance work with bats from Australia to West Africa. While Harrison, Zika, and Muhiddin explained to Matthew some of the challenges they face capturing small insectivorous bats in the Ruaha ecosystem, Matthew replied “you guys are doing pretty well actually.” Small bats are difficult to capture. Plus, unlike in the forests of Cameroon and Gabon where researchers place capture nets called mist nets perpendicular to known bat flyways under a thick rainforest canopy, the Ruaha ecosystem is open-air. We all know firsthand from freeze tag that it’s easier to catch something in a confined area like an alley than in an open field.
To address this challenge, Harrison and Zika are trapping small bats (aka Roosters in HALI vernacular) in Ruaha by placing nets outside known roosting sites in the eaves of people’s homes (where the risk of bat-borne disease transmission is greatest), and at watering holes (like in the picture above) where bats and other animals may congregate together providing another interesting interface for disease transmission between bats and other wildlife and domestic animals like pastoralist herds and dogs. Matthew also suggested trying some trapping by hand (literally grabbing a bat with a heavily protected and gloved hand), and using another type of trap called a harp trap placed outside the roosting site.
Capturing small bats will continue to be difficult, especially since PREDICT’s bat surveillance is all new research for the Ruaha area. But who knows, maybe they’ll discover a new species! Muhiddin will be sharing some photos of the bat surveillance activities with us over the weekend, so when I receive them, I’ll post them to the HALI Facebook page.