Join me on a virtual trip as we travel to Tioman Island, a tropical paradise 20 miles (32 km) off the southeastern coast of the Malaysian Peninsula. While this island may seem like the perfect vacation spot to us, to Dr. Sheema Abdul Aziz the island is her research site. Over the last four years, Dr. Sheema has been studying giant fruit bats also known as flying foxes. Her research is the first of its kind in Peninsular Malaysia, as it investigates the positive role flying foxes play in providing ecosystem services, while also addressing the human-bat conflict.
I had read about Dr. Sheema's work while researching the Malayan tiger in 2015. Her work had sparked my interest in bats and over the years I have frequented her website. In considering my next Edition I decided to reach out to her via email for an interview to which she kindly agreed. In this interview, Dr. Sheema gives us both an overview of her preliminary findings and a sneak peek into what is yet to come. The interview also covers a range of thought provoking information and possibly answers to questions you may have asked yourself about this species. I would like to thank Dr. Sheema for making time for this interview and for sharing her work and passion with us.
Most people perceive bats as neither charismatic nor appealing; however, their importance cannot be overstated. There are over 900 species of bats, which make up ¼ of all mammals worldwide. Bats are the only know mammals capable of true flight. They are divided into the two main groups-phytophagous (feed on plants) and insectivorous. Phytophagous bats are known as fruit bats. There are close to 170 species of fruit bats and their diet mostly comprises of fruit, nectar and pollen. The remaining 760 species of bats fall under insectivorous bats and as their name suggests their diet comprises of insects.