Madagascan rousette (Rousettus madagascariensis)

Madagascan rousettes roosting in cave
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Madagascan rousette fact file

Madagascan rousette description

GenusRousettus (1)

The Madagascan rousette (Rousettus madagascariensis) is the smallest of Madagascar’s three endemic fruit bats (3). Its body is greyish-brown on the upperparts, with reddish-brown tinges, and paler grey-brown on the underparts. The fur is quite long and dense, but shorter on the neck, throat and shoulders. The wings are relatively broad (2).

As in other fruit bats, the face of the Madagascan rousette is rather dog-like, with a pointed muzzle, large eyes, and fairly conspicuous, widely separated ears (2) (4). Although most fruit bats rely on sight and smell as their main senses, some members of the genus Rousettus also use a rudimentary form of echolocation, producing high-pitched clicks with the tongue to help detect obstacles in their path. The association of the Madagascan rousette with cave roost sites suggests that this species is also likely to possess this ability (2) (4) (5).

Also known as
Madagascar rousette.
Total length: 11.5 - 14.5 cm (2)
Wingspan: 42.5 - 52 cm (2)
50 - 80 g (2)

Madagascan rousette biology

The Madagascan rousette feeds mainly on the juices of fruits, soft fruit pulp and nectar. It may play an important role in the forest as a pollinator and seed disperser (1) (2) (5) (9), particularly as its small size makes it the only fruit bat in Madagascar that can fly within intact forest (1) (3).

The rudimentary echolocation of this species is likely to be used only for orientation, with food being detected using vision and scent. The Madagascan rousette flies considerable distances each night in search of food (2) (9). It is also probably capable of longer-distance flights, and appears to be a rather mobile species that is readily able to disperse across the island (10). Emerging from caves at dusk puts the Madagascan rousette at risk of predation by owls and raptors (11).

This species may form roosts of up to several hundred individuals (2), although a single cave roost of over 5,000 has also been recorded (12). During the daytime, roosts are noisy and the bats are often restless, continually competing for the best positions. Fights are not uncommon (2) (5). In general, Rousettus species have extended breeding seasons which follow the rains, sometimes with two peaks each year (5). A study in the east of Madagascar found that the Madagascan rousette gives birth to a single young (9).


Madagascan rousette range

The Madagascan rousette is endemic to Madagascar, where it generally widespread, but rare or absent from the central highlands and the arid southwest (6).


Madagascan rousette habitat

Typically inhabiting lowland rainforest and deciduous forest (2) (5) (7), the Madagascan rousette has also been recorded in Eucalyptus plantations, in agricultural areas and in villages (1) (8).

Although it may roost in large trees and in tree holes, this bat prefers roosting sites in caves, and so may be largely restricted to areas where suitable caves are present (1) (2) (7).


Madagascan rousette status

The Madagascan rousette is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Madagascan rousette threats

The Madagascan rousette is believed to have undergone a decline of around 20 to 25 percent in recent decades. Although often the most commonly trapped species during scientific surveys, it is seriously threatened by overhunting (1) (3) (7) (13). Most hunting occurs at the roosts, by local people, with the bats caught in locally made traps or knocked down from the cave ceiling using sticks (1) (13).

The Madagascan rousette may also potentially be killed as a pest of fruit crops (1). Under Malagasy law, the Madagascan rousette is a game species, and as such only receives protection where it occurs in nature reserves, or where it roosts at sacred sites (1) (14). However, many reserves receive little real protection, and the national hunting season for bats is also largely ignored (7) (13).

Since fruit bats produce only a single offspring each year, they are particularly susceptible to overhunting (13). Forest destruction and degradation are likely to compound these problems (1) (7), although the extent to which the Madagascan rousette is impacted by deforestation is not yet fully understood (1).


Madagascan rousette conservation

The Madagascan rousette occurs in several protected areas within Madagascar, including Ankarana Special Reserve and Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park (1) (7) (15). However, roost sites are in need of more effective protection both within and outside of these areas, and cooperation with local communities is likely to be vital (1) (13).

Other recommended conservation actions for the Madagascan rousette include further studies into its biology and ecology, especially its reproductive behaviour (7). A number of organisations have already been active in investigating the diet and foraging behaviour of the Madagascan rousette, as well as investigating the patterns and impacts of hunting. Various environmental education programmes have also been initiated, to increase awareness of bat conservation amongst local communities (3) (14). However, unless the Madagascan rousette can be effectively protected against overhunting and the effects of habitat loss, it may become increasingly threatened in the future.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

Find out more about the conservation of fruit bats:



Authenticated (07/03/11) by Dr Richard K.B. Jenkins, Madagasikara Voakajy and School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography, Bangor University.



Deciduous forest
Forest consisting mainly of deciduous trees, which shed their leaves at the end of the growing season.
Detecting objects by reflected sound. Used by bats and odontocete cetaceans (toothed whales, dolphins and porpoises) for orientation and to detect and locate prey.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
An animal that in the act of visiting a plant’s flowers transfers pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2009)
  2. Garbutt, N. (1999) Mammals of Madagascar. Pica Press, Sussex.
  3. Madagasikara Voakajy (March, 2009)
  4. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  6. MacKinnon, J.L., Hawkins, C.E. and Racey, P.A. (2003) Pteropodidae, Fruit Bats, Fanihy, Angavo. In: Goodman, S.M. and Benstead, J.P. (Eds.) The Natural History of Madagascar. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  7. Mickleburgh, S.P., Hutson, A.M. and Racey, P.A. (1992) Old World Fruit Bats: An Action Plan for their Conservation. IUCN/SSC Chiroptera Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. Available at:
  8. Randrianandrianina, F., Andriafidison, D., Kofoky, A.F., Ramilijaona, O., Ratrimomanarivo, F., Racey, P.A. and Jenkins, R.K.B. (2006) Habitat use and conservation of bats in rainforest and adjacent human-modified habitats in eastern Madagascar. Acta Chiropterologica, 8(2): 429-437.
  9. Andrianaivoarivelo, R.A., Ramilijaona, O.R., Racey, P.A., Razafindrakoto, N. and Jenkins, R.K.B. (2011) Feeding ecology, habitat use and reproduction of Rousettus madagascariensis Grandidier, 1928 (Chiroptera: Pteropodidae) in eastern Madagascar. Mammalia, 75(1): 69-78.
  10. Goodman, S.M., Chan, L.M., Nowak, M.D. and Yoder, A.D. (2010) Phylogeny and biogeography of western Indian Ocean Rousettus (Chiroptera: Pteropodidae). Journal of Mammalogy, 91(3): 593-606.
  11. Goodman, S.M. and Griffiths, O. (2006) A case of exceptionally high predation levels of Rousettus madagascariensis by Tyto alba (Aves: Tytonidae) in western Madagascar. Acta Chirpterologica, 8(2): 553-556.
  12. Rakotonandrasana, E.N. and Goodman, S.M. (2007) Bat inventories of the Madagascar offshore islands of Nosy Be, Nosy Komba and Ile Sainte-Marie. African Bat Conservation News, 12: 6-10.
  13. Jenkins, R.K.B. and Racey, P.A. (2008) Bats as bushmeat in Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation and Development, 3(1): 22-30.
  14. O’Connor, T., Riger, P. and Jenkins, R. (2005) Endemic Fruit Bats and Conservation Education: New Initiatives in Madagascar and Papua New Guinea. AZA 2005 Annual Conference Proceedings, September 13-18, Chicago, Illinois.
  15. Kofoky, A., Andriafidison, D., Ratrimomanarivo, F., Razafimanahaka, H.J., Rakotondravony, D., Racey, P.A. and Jenkins, R.K.B. (2007) Habitat use, roost selection and conservation of bats in Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, Madagascar. Biodiversity and Conservation, 16(4): 1039-1053.

Image credit

Madagascan rousettes roosting in cave  
Madagascan rousettes roosting in cave


Kevin Schafer Photography
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