On Cebu, D. chapmani occurs in the Catmon municipal watershed and it has been adopted as a flagship species by the local government in Carmen municipality. There are political problems in the region and researchers are reluctant to take part in surveys there.
The local government of Carmen has organized a group of environment protection coordinators who patrol and report violations to the municipal mayor and council. Part of the duty of the environment protection coordinators is to survey cave sanctuaries and report illegalities e.g. tree felling and hunting particularly of bats. The municipal government has declared the caves where these bats occur as Naked-backed Fruit Bat Sanctuaries. Reforestation project is underway there (Paguntalan in litt. 2006).
The largest remaining forest fragment is not within a protected area and was not included in the listing of Key
Conservation Sites in Cebu (Mallari et al. 2001). This needs to be rectified.
On Negros, the species has been recorded from a provincial level forest reserve in the southwest of the Island (Calatong). Two towns are pending resolutions to adopt this as a flagship species.
There is an urgent need for improved protection of the remaining known populations on both islands, and further surveys are needed to locate additional populations.
The Negros Naked-backed Fruit Bat is endemic to the Philippines, where it is known only from Cebu and Negros Islands (Heaney et al. 1998; Simmons 2005) occurring at an elevation range from sea level to 860 m. It was thought to be probably extinct but was rediscovered at Carmen and Catmon on Cebu Island in 2001 (Pangutalan et al. 2004), and Calatong (near Sipalay City), Negros Occidental province, southwest Negros Island, in 2003 (Alcala et al. 2004). Further surveys might locate additional populations on both islands.
Dobsonia chapmani was known to occur on the islands of Negros and Cebu between 1949 and 1964 and the species was believed to have become probably extinct by the 1970s as a result of forest destruction, disturbance through guano mining, and hunting (Heaney and Heideman 1987; Utzurrum 1992). About 35 specimens were collected in the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s from several different cave systems in southern Negros some of which occurred in well forested and sparsely populated areas (Paguntalan et al. 2004). The species was reported to be formerly common in lowland forest from sea level to 800 m in southern Negros Island (Rabor 1986). Populations were rediscovered in Carmen and Catmon on Cebu Island in 2001 (Pangutalan et al. 2004), and five individuals were found in a small limestone forest fragment (Calatong) near Sipalay City, Negros Occidental province, southwest Negros Island in 2003 (Alcala et al. 2004).
The Negros Naked-backed Fruit Bat is threatened by habitat destruction and degradation, and harvest for meat throughout most of its range.
On Negros, lowland forest and karst habitat within the former known range of the species (before its rediscovery) have been heavily degraded by logging and clearing for agriculture. Since its rediscovery in 2001 there has been significant conversion of habitat to agriculture and mining for copper and gold within the current known range of the species on Cebu. Evans (1993) reported that less than 4% of Negros Island was forested, with small patches of degraded forest in the central and southern portion of the island. Roosts of the species are disturbed by guano miners. The largest remaining fragment of forest within the range of this species on Cebu is approximately 60 ha and this is threatened by the cutting of trees for charcoal and agricultural development (Paguntalan et al. 2004)
Harvest of D. chapmani for local consumption and sale has caused past population declines. Hunting is known to occur in the areas in which it has been rediscovered. In an ethnobiological survey, which included the islands of Sipalay City, out of 28 respondents, 15 reported hunting this species (A. Carino pers. comm. 2006). As a larger species, it is particularly targeted by hunters and in the past the species was sold in street markets. However, since 1995, D. chapmani has rarely been captured in caves where it has reportedly been hunted before. Interviews with hunters indicate that only about one or two individuals of D. chapmani have been taken during the 2003-2005 period indicating a population decline (Paguntalan in litt. 2006). It has been bred in captivity by collectors as a pet (L. Paguntalan pers. comm. 2006).
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