African Bat Conservation

AFRICAN BAT CONSERVATION (ABC) conducts applied research, conservation and education to bring bats to the conservation agenda and conserve bat populations in Africa. ABC is based in Malawi and works in collaboration with the University of Bristol (UK), The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Malawi and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, working inside and outside protected areas with research camps at Kasungu and Liwonde National Park.

Here is more information from them about their project:

WHY BATS?

Bats are one of the most abundant and diverse groups of tropical mammals and form a fundamental component of African biodiversity. Several studies have highlighted bat diversity and abundance as key indicators of habitat disturbance, environmental change, and potential conservation value (Pineda et al. 2005). Bats perform important ecological roles as seed dispersers, pollinators and predators, therefore understanding their conservation status is vital.

Despite their importance to biodiversity, bat populations are declining worldwide (Hutson et al. 2001) and the ecology and status of most African bat species are poorly known. The lack of research on African bat populations hinders our understanding of the consequences of environmental change. Research and conservation is needed to inform land-use regimes and development, and advise stakeholders at times of increased population pressure (Struebig et al. 2008).

ABC aims to fill this gap by conducting applied research, community awareness, education and capacity building in bat conservation, research and monitoring. We are working in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife in Malawi to build capacity for bat research and conservation in Malawi and bring bats to the conservation agenda. We are partnered with Lilongwe Wildlife Trust who have expertise in community education and awareness. Using their expertise we are working with local communities to increase understanding of the importance of bats, dispel myths and mitigate human-bat conflict.

HOW CAN YOU HELP AS A VOLUNTEER?

Bat are considered as pests in Malawi and are actively persecuted. They are not protected even in National Parks and are not considered in conservation management plans. Volunteers can play a vital role in helping us to achieve our aims. We need as much help as we can get to make a difference for bats and biodiversity in Africa, we are a small team with a big task ahead. In return it is our hope that volunteers will enjoy volunteering with us, meet like-minded people and develop some new skills. We are conducting a national monitoring programme as well as conducting a number of smaller research projects about bats and biodiversity. Your time as a volunteer will be spent assisting ABC scientists with field research, community education and awareness including bat trapping and acoustic monitoring, creating a guide to bats in Malawi, roost surveys, habitat assessments, insect sampling, small mammal monitoring, and tracking bats (at specific times of year).

WHY VOLUNTEER WITH ABC?

  • Work with expert scientists – ABC is led and founded by expert bat scientists from the University of Bristol, UK. The project leader Dr Emma Stone has been conducting research on bats since 1998 whilst working in the remote Kafue National Park in Zambia. She is a member of the internationally renowned Bat Ecology and Bioacoustics Research Lab at the University of Bristol, where she completed her PhD thesis on bats in the UK. Emma has been conducting applied conservation research for over 16 years particularly in Africa. This is a unique opportunity to work alongside established internationally renowned research scientists and assist in applied conservation research and community conservation.
  • Unique project – we provide a unique opportunity to work with bats and biodiversity research in Africa. There are very few projects working with bats in Africa, and even fewer opportunities to volunteer. Not much is known about African bats, and Malawi is estimated to have over 64 species! This makes your experience even more exciting as we are in unchartered territory in bat research, waiting to discover weird and wonderful new things about bats in Malawi. We are unlike many of the other volunteer opportunities in Africa in that we provide a unique opportunity to work alongside qualified scientists as they conduct novel research on previously unstudied species.
  • Gain new skills, build your CV and develop your career – during your placement you will have the opportunity to gain many new skills including field research techniques such as bat trapping, mist netting and bat handling, acoustic surveys, small mammal trapping and handling, insect trapping and habitat surveys. You can also gain lab based skills including acoustic identification of bats, call analysis, GIS, and insect display/storage.

WHERE WILL YOU BE BASED?

Volunteers will be based at the ABC research camp in Liwonde National Park, at Mvuu Camp, a Wilderness Safaris Lodge on the banks of the Shire river.

Camp is rustic but very comfortable with canvas safari tents on wooden platforms, equipped with beds, linen and power. Showers and toilets are located nearby. Volunteers share a large tent which can sleep up to 4 people, or smaller private tents can be provided on request.

Based in Liwonde with so much to see and do you won’t be disappointed. We can also arrange optional extras including safari boat trips on the Shire river for excellent game viewing at sunset, and walking safaris at dawn. The park harbours an abundant wildlife population including elephant, reedbuck, waterbuck and sable, hippo, buffalo, zebra, roan, eland and black rhino.

WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING?

e conduct a variety of research, community education and awareness activities, not just involving bats. This gives volunteers the opportunity to get involved and gain skills in a diversity of activities including:

  • Field research: bat trapping and acoustic surveys, GIS mapping, insect and small mammal surveys, vegetation and habitat sampling.
  • Community education and awareness activities, marketing and fundraising.
  • We conduct surveys throughout the park, so we travel to field sites to sample the biodiversity most days. This involves setting bat, small mammal and insect traps, and conducting vegetation surveys. Once completed we have to store and process all insect samples and log all data and acoustic records.
  • We also work in the local communities to conduct questionnaire surveys to establish community understanding of bats and biodiversity. This involves working in the rural villages surrounding the park.

HOW TO APPLY?

Lilongwe Wildlife Trust can help you to organise your placements directly with ABC. Please email lilongwewildlife@gmail.com for your information pack and any further questions.