Looking for bats in Oceania (e.g. New Caledonia, Australia) was relatively easy: the literature is fairly easy to find; the bat fauna isn’t too diversified; and a number of people had visited the areas before, making it quite easy to follow in their steps. But this was all about to change as I flew to the Philippines. With no literature available, barely any research having been done there at all, high species diversity and very few people visiting this archipelago for its bats, the challenge ahead was substantial!
With over 7,000 islands, I had to choose as I had only planned a 16-day stay in the archipelago. As a general rule, the larger the island, the higher the diversity, so I knew I wasn’t going for the really small ones. However, while Luzon is the biggest one, it’s also one of the most degraded islands, meaning that most species of bats would be in inaccessible parts, yet to be destroyed (which let’s be honest, is their likely future). In the end, I decided to choose Palawan, because it’s still quite wild and because of its Underground river, home to 8 species of bats; Mindanao to visit Monfort Bat Sanctuary; and Bohol because I found reports of bats in easily accessible caves there. At the beginning and at the end of my trip, I spent a bit on time on Luzon.
First destination of the trip was Subic Bay, North of Manila. Known to birdwatchers and mammal watchers alike, the place is famous for its Large Flying Fox, Pteropus vampyrus and Golden-crowned Flying Fox, Acerodon jubatus colony. The two species are competing for the title of largest bat in the world, although the latter seems to be the largest in most cases. Either way, they can have a wingspan north of 1.6m, that’s 5 ft 3’ for the non-metric folks out there. It’s crazy!
On my arrival to the known place, no bats to be seen. After asking a couple of locals, I discovered that the roost had burnt, driving them deep inside the jungle. Not good news… Turns out that bats really are creatures of habit though, because they came back to feed on their usual trees a little after dark. Not a great sighting because of the darkness but what a relief!
With my bat recorder, I managed to identify a few microbats, including the Asian wrinkle-lipped Bat, Chaerephon plicatus that I will see over and over again throughout my journey across SE Asia, Pipistrellus javanicus and Rhinolophus philippensis.