The status of Dobsonia chapmani on both Cebu and Negros Islands is unknown since its rediscovery in 2001 and 2003. On Cebu, in the Catmon municipal watershed the species subsequently adopted as a flagship species by the Local Government Unit (LGU) in the Carmen municipality; the municipal government declared the caves where these bats occur as Naked-backed Fruit Bat Sanctuaries and reforestation projects were launched. The Carmen LGU had established environment protection coordinators to patrol the area, survey cave sanctuaries, and report violations (tree harvest and bat hunting) to the municipal mayor and council. Further, the largest remaining forest fragment on Cebu is not within a protected area and was not included in the listing of Key Conservation Sites in Cebu (Mallari et al. 2001). Unfortunately, subsequent political issues and social unrest the region prevented subsequent work there in the 2000s, no further work has been reported, and the status of these proactive initiatives are unknown.
On Negros, the species is known from a provincial level forest reserve in Calatong in southwest Negros; two towns had pending resolutions to adopt Dobsonia chapmani as a flagship species in the 2000s; the current status of the efforts are unknown
On both Cebu and Negros, there is an urgent need to assess the status of the conservation efforts started in the 2000s and help bring them to resolution. Cave roosts need immediate and effective protection, and further research into the species ecology, habitat requirements, threats, and population status and trends are warranted.
Dobsonia chapmani is a large fruit bat that is endemic to the Philippines and is found from sea level to 860 m on Cebu and Negros Islands (Heaney et al. 1998, Simmons 2005). It was previously considered extinct (Heaney et al. 1998) and 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). The species has not been seen since 2003 and additional surveys are needed to confirm the species extant distribution throughout Cebu and Negros Islands.
Historically, Dobsonia chapmani the species was reported to be relatively common in lowland forest in southern Negros Island (Rabor 1986). Currently, the species global population is suspected to still be declining following a major population decline between 1949 and 1964 of >80% over three (3) generations (GL length = 6 years; Pacifici et al. 2013, Heaney et al. 1998). Reports showed that approximately 35 specimens were collected from several cave systems in southern Negros from the 1940s to the 1960s, some of these caves occurred in well forested and sparsely populated areas (Paguntalan et al. 2004). By the 1970s, the species was presumed to be extinct (Heaney et al. 1998) as the species had previously been hunted for food and collected for research, threats that were exacerbated by in-cave guano mining and extensive forest loss, degradation, and fragmentation throughout the species range (Heaney and Heideman 1987, Utzurrum 1992). In 2001, three (3) individuals (two mature females and one subadult female) were captured at two (2) sites in Carmen and Catmon on Cebu Island (Pangutalan et al. 2004). In 2003, another five (5) individuals (one mature female, three mature males, and a juvenile male) were captured in a small limestone-forest fragment (Calatong) near Sipalay City, Negros Occidental province, southwest Negros Island (Alcala et al. 2004). The global population of the species is estimated at 40–50 mature individuals as only six (6) mature individuals have been captured since it was rediscovered in 2001. Additional research is needed regarding the species population status and trends throughout its range.
The small remnant population of Dobsonia chapmani is threatened by continuing forest habitat destruction, degradation, and fragmentation, as well as the loss and disturbance of critical cave roosts. Further, the illegal hunting of the species continues throughout its range.
On Negros, lowland forest and karst habitat within the species’ historic range has been both significantly lost and heavily degraded by logging and clearing for agriculture. Less than 4% of the original forests remain on Negros Island, with only small patches of degraded forest in southern Negros where D. chapmani has been found (Evans et al. 1993). Since its rediscovery in 2001, significant forest conversion to agriculture and the loss of additional forests on Cebu due to mining for copper and gold. Further, the largest remaining forest fragment within the range of the species on Cebu is only 60 ha and it is threatened by the cutting of trees for charcoal and agricultural development (Paguntalan et al. 2004); its current status is unknown. Historic and possible cave roosts of the species on both islands are disturbed by guano miners and as cave bats are hunted in the caves.
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