Wroughton’s free-tailed bat was considered to be one of the 15 most endangered bat species (3); however, more recent discoveries suggest that this bat may not be as threatened as once thought (4). This small, yet robust (5), bat has a velvety, rich dark brown coat with a greyish-white area on the back of the neck and upper back (2)(6). The ears, which measure between 25 to 40 millimetres, are joined by a membrane, low over the forehead (2)(6). Like other bats in the Molossidae family, a large part of the thick tail projects beyond the tail membrane, hence the name ‘free-tailed’ (5).
Little is known about the biology of this rarely recorded bat. Female Wroughton’s free-tailed bats that were found in December had newborn young, or were on the verge of giving birth, while specimens collected in May were not pregnant and had no young. This suggests that the breeding season is near the end of autumn. Like other Otomops species, Wroughton’s free-tailed bat may be usually solitary, or associate in small groups (2).
Until fairly recently, Wroughton’s free-tailed bat was thought to be restricted to a single location, in Karnataka, south-west India. However, in 2000, a bat believed to be this species was found in the Chhep District of Cambodia (7), and in 2001 it was found in Meghalaya, north-east India (4). If these specimens are indeed Wroughton’s free-tailed bat, this species’ range is much greater than first believed (4).
Wroughton’s free-tailed bat was once considered to be one of the 15 most endangered bat species, based on the belief that only one roosting colony existed (3), but the newly discovered populations hopefully mean that this species is much more widely distributed than first thought. However, even if this bat does have a large range, individual roosting colonies remain vulnerable to the impacts of disturbance and habitat destruction. The single colony in Karnataka is threatened by the large-scale illegal felling of trees, mining, the collection of specimens and possible dam construction (3)(8)(9).
Wroughton’s free-tailed bat is listed on Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act in India, which commands the greatest level of protection for this species (8). It has also been proposed that the Bhimgad forests, the area in Karnataka in which the Wroughton’s free-tailed bat colony is located, is declared a wildlife sanctuary. Sadly, the government has not yet taken action on this, and instead want to sell off the land for mining purposes (9), an action which is likely to have devastating consequences for this rare and unique bat.
Nowak, R.M. (1994) Walker’s Bats of the World. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
Hutson, A.M., Mickleburgh, S.P. and Racey, P.A. (2001) Microchiropteran Bats: Global Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Chiroptera Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
Thabah, A. and Bates, P.J.J. (2002) Recent record of Otomops wroughtoni (Thomas, 1913) (Chiroptera, Molossidae) from Meghalaya, north-east India. Acta Zoologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 48(3): 251 - 253.
Macdonald, D.W. (2006) Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
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