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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is taking steps to declare as critical habitatan estimated 25-hectare site in Barangay Mabuhay, General Santos City which is home to the large flying fox (Pteropusvampyrus).

This measure isin a bid to protect the remaining population of this species, considered the largest bat in the world, from hunting, loss of habitat and other threats.

A DENR composite team conducted a rapid habitat assessment of large flying fox roosting on trees in Nopol Hills in Barangay Mabuhayassisted by the representatives of the local government unit and the tenure holder of the Forest Land Grazing Management Agreement (FLGMA) No. 20-2007 where Nopol Hills is situated.The team estimated the bat population to be around 7,000 heads.

Pursuant to Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act of 2001 and Joint DENR-DA-PCSD Administrative Order No. 01, FLGMA is a production sharing agreement between a qualified person, association and/or corporation and the government to develop, manage and utilize grazing lands.

On the other hand, DENR Memorandum Circular No. 2007-02 defines critical habitats as “known habitats of threatened species and designated as such based on scientific data taking into consideration species endemicity and richness, presence of man-made pressures and threats to the survival of wildlife living in the area, among others.”

Forester Shalimar A. Disomangcop, the outgoing Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) for South Cotabato, said that the large flying fox feeds on fruits, nectar and flowers, hence these mammals are also called “large fruit bats.”

“They play a biological role in the ecosystem by dispersing seeds and by serving as pollinators of forest trees. Large fruit bats are vital when it comes to pollinating food crops like durian,” Disomangcop added.

The Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in General Santos City has reported that Nopol Hills is the roosting site of the bats owing to the presence of a forest in the locality.

Results of the rapid site assessment show that there are man-made pressures or threats occurring in the area such as cutting of trees and hunting that might affect the survival of the large flying foxes. These observations were reported to the Barangay LGU for appropriate action.

The presence of natural resources that have economic and social impacts in the area were also observed by the team.

The CENRO has also conducted a perimeter survey and community consultation as part of the preparations for the declaration of the identified area as a critical habitat.

The large flying fox is classified under Other Threatened Species in the List of Threatened Species as provided for under DENR Administrative Order No. 2004-15 and the 2017 Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species or CITES List of Threatened Species. (PKAFarrol/MCLocsin/DENR South Cotabato). ###