Bats of Indonesia: Part II

After visiting Sulawesi and Seram, it was time to head over to the complete unknown. And for bats, it doesn’t get much more unknown than West Papua.

I started off in Waigeo, the largest island in Raja Ampat. The region is home to a number of species and is regularly visited by birdwatchers and mammal watchers alike who report bats. Little did I know then that most of the reports online would turn out to be completely wrong and misinformed…

On Waigeo, I mostly spent time resting and enjoying the staggering scenery but I also did some birdwatching, mammal watching and of course, a lot of batting!

Around my homestay, I recorded Mosia, Rhinolophus euryotis, Mormopterus cf. loriae, Pipistrellus papuanus and Asellicus tricuspidatus. I actually caught the Rhinolophus and showed it to the family at the homestay. They were very happy to see a small bat up close and very intrigued by that weird nose… My nonexistent knowledge of the Papuan dialect meant I couldn’t really explain what it was for and all that… But if you want to know more about Rhinolophid weird noses, I wrote a blog post about all that!

I tried to see the caves nearby, presumably home to a species of Emballonura and Dobsonia spp.  Reports of Pteropus neohibernicus in the area are erroneous, and so are most reports of P.alecto. The only Pteropus anyone is likely to see there is Pteropus conspicillatus, the Spectacled Flying Fox. Don’t get me started on the reports of Geelvink Bay Flying Fox, Pteropus pohlei that’s restricted to Yapen and the neighbouring island of Numfoor. Reports from Biak are worth investigating but I have yet to see a photo from there.

It’s a shame that so many trip reports are so unreliable for bats because they would otherwise be an invaluable source of information on the distribution and ecology of many species.

After my stay in Waigeo, it was time to get down to business and visit West Papua. I chose to visit the Vogelkop, or Bird’s Head as its called; it’s the part where Sorong and Manokwari are located, looking a bit like a bird’s head, the body being the whole island of New Guinea.

That area offers reasonably easy access to mountain areas as well as lowlands… Well… What’s left of them, that hasn’t been transformed into a palm plantation.

In the Arfak Mountains, in addition to seeing lots of great bird species, I managed to see the following bats: Pipistrellus collinus, Pteropus macrotis, Nyctimene albiventer, Miniopterus magnater and M.macrocneme as well as Dobsonia magna. I also recorded, and saw a large Rhinolophid. There is no known species in a 2000km radius that fits what I saw and recorded so I concluded it had to be a new species! Given there has been virtually no bat research in the area, it’s not a surprising find. But a very welcome one as discovering a new species has always been my childhood dream! (I was a bit of an odd ball when I was a child).

In the lowlands, my guide, Carlos (from BirdTour Asia) knows an area that hasn’t been too logged yet. I won’t disclose the location in respect of his work in the area.

Rain in the evenings meant batting had to happen in the morning. And I was already very tired from travelling for so long and given I am absolutely not a morning person, it was very challenging…

Early mornings were great for bird watching though with a few more species of Birds-of-Paradise, of which I saw/heard a total of nine in both the Arfaks and the lowlands, as well as a number of endemics we couldn’t see at higher altitudes.

Our stay at a mid-altitude campsite had to be cancelled because of typical Papuan last minute changes. Flexibility is the key to a successful trip to any part of Papua and I am extremely grateful to Carlos for admirably handling it all! I’d definitely recommend him for any trip, anywhere in Indonesia. And I’ve turned him to the Dark Side so he’s really into bats now!

As for mammals, Papua has lots of amazing species. I could talk to you about all the Tree Kangaroos, Possums, Cuscuses and all that but it would be cruel… What I will tell you though is that I want to go back to formally describe the Rhinolophus species novo I found and I’d like to combine that with a hardcore mammal-watching trip where we’d try the stuff of dreams Papua has to offer… If you’re interested, please let me know by sending me an email, contacting me on Facebook or using my Contact page. It would be for 2020, or more likely 2021.

Before leaving Indonesia, I decided to spend a couple of days in the Jakarta/Bogor area.

I didn’t do much in the end because I was exhausted but I did find Myotis hasselti in Central Jakarta and Cynopterus brachyotis in Bogor.

Overall, I saw 39 species in Indonesia, of which 33 were new. It may not sound like many given Indonesia has 220, more than any country in the World but keep in mind there has been little to no research in Indonesia, many species can’t be reliably identified in the field because the identification features haven’t been sufficiently described yet.

Hopefully, this will change in the near future, before all the bats are eaten and all the trees cut down that is…

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