The Action Plan for Australian Bats
Taxon summary: Christmas Island Flying-fox
Scientific Name: Pteropus melanotus natalis Thomas, 1887
Common Name: Christmas Island Flying-fox
Conservation Status: Data Deficient
Past range and abundance
According to Wilson and Reeder (1993) P. melanotus contains six subspecies, each restricted to an island: P. m. satyrus (North Andaman Islands); P. m. tytleri (South Andaman Islands); P. m. niadicus (Nias); P. m. modiglianii (Enggano); P. m. melanotus (Nicobar Islands) and P. m. natalis on Christmas Island. The correctness of this opinion has not been tested with modern taxonomic methods.
Present range and abundance
The most recent assessment of P. melanotus natalis was made in 1984 (Tidemann 1985). In 1984 the population was estimated to be less than 10,000 animals, but apparently stable. Much of Christmas Island (63%) is now contained within the Christmas Island National Park. No information is available on range and abundance of any of the other five subspecies (Mickleburgh et al. 1992). Assuming the opinion of Wilson and Reeder (1993) to be correct, the nearest source population to that on Christmas Island is Enggano, more than 600 km distant over water.
P. melanotus natalis feeds in most of the vegetation types present on Christmas Island, including previously mined areas and camps were located in many different vegetation associations (Tidemann 1985).
Small scale hunting by local people was observed in 1984, but firearms are prohibited and low technology methods are used. Consequently, bats are not hunted in camps (Tidemann 1987). Predation by feral cats causes some mortality, but the situation appears stable (Tidemann et al. 1994). The accidental introduction and establishment of the Wolf Snake (Lycodon aulicus capucinus) to the island (Fritts 1993) was thought initially to pose a potential risk to P. melanotus (Tidemann 1992), but subsequent consideration of the size of this snake suggests that it is a most unlikely predator of the species (C. Tidemann unpub.).
- Carry out population assessment. None has been carried out since 1984 and it would be prudent to do so, given the small size of the population and its extreme isolation.
- Carry out taxonomic study. This may well show that this species is an endemic species, rather than a subspecies of a widely distributed taxon.
- Review status based on knowledge gained through the above actions.
Fritts T.H. 1993. The common wolf snake, Lycodon aulicus capucinus, a recent colonist of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. Wildlife Research 20, 261–6.
Mickleburgh S. P., Hutson A.M. and Racey P.A. (Eds.) 1992. Old World fruit bats. An action plan for their conservation. International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Gland.
Tidemann C. R. 1985. The status, habitat requirements and management of the two species of bat on Christmas Island (Indian Ocean). Report to the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, Canberra (unpublished).
Tidemann C. R. 1987. Notes on the flying fox, Pteropus melanotus, (Chiroptera: Pteropodidae) on Christmas Island, Indian Ocean. Australian Mammalogy 10, 89–91.
Tidemann C.R. 1992. Pteropus melanotus natalis. In S.P. Mickleburgh, P.A. Racey and A.M. Hutson (Eds). Old-World fruit bats. An action plan for the family Pteropodidae. International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Gland.
Tidemann C. R., Yorkston H.D. and Russack A.J. 1994. The diet of cats, Felis catus, on Christmas Island, Indian Ocean. Wildlife Research 21, 279–286.
Wilson D.E. and Reeder D.M. (Eds). 1993. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Second Edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington.
Author for the species