Saturday, 29 August 2009

Pteropus vampyrus, Malaysian flying fox, koay chee bah

When I was a young kid, my father would occasionally bring back a great big dead animal that looked like a fox with wings. The koay chee bah, he would tell me and it came from some friends who had returned from a hunting trip in the jungle. Then my mother would go to work at it to rip the skin off the animal, clean it of the entrails and plonk it into a pot to be double boiled with some herbs until the soup turned dark. Supposedly a very nourishing soup for the body, according to her.

Well, the koay chee bah or the Malaysian Flying Fox is reportedly tottering on the endangered list. This is an excerpt from a report from the BBC online.

Scientists are urging the government of Malaysia to ban the hunting of the world's largest fruit bat.

Researchers say the large flying fox will be wiped out on the Malaysian peninsula if the current unsustainable level of hunting continues.

Writing in the Journal of Applied Ecology they say around 22,000 of the animals are legally hunted each year and more killed illegally.

They say the species could be extinct there by as early as 2015.

Lead author, Dr Jonathan Epstein of Wildlife Trust, told BBC News: "They eat fruit and nectar and in doing so they drop seeds around and pollinate trees. So they are critical to the propagation of rainforest plants."

The most optimistic estimates put the population of flying foxes in peninsular Malaysia at 500,000.

The animals are hunted for food, medicine and sport. Shooting takes place at dusk as the bats set out to forage overnight.

The researchers say their population models suggest that if current hunting rates continue it will take between six and 81 years for the species to be hunted to extinction.

Flying foxes, or Pteropus vampyrus, are protected in neighbouring Thailand but hunting is allowed in Malaysia and parts of Indonesia.

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