Mindoro boasts of another indigenous species [Mayala 2007-09-17]
BY REINIR PADUA
FIRST it was the Philippine "tamaraw" (water buffalo) then there was the bleeding pigeon.
Now the island of Mindoro takes pride as the only sanctuary of a new bat species called the Mindoro stripe-faced fruit bat (styloctenium mindorensis), prompting experts to note the rising endemism of wildlife in the country.
Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, director of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the new bat species was found by Filipino and foreign scientists on Mt. Siburan in Sablayan, Mindoro Occidental, in February last year.
These scientists brought the bat to the National History Museum of the University of Kansas in the United States to verify if it was a new species.
Jacob Esselstyn, an American scientist, confirmed only this month that not only was it a new species but one that can be found only in the Philippines.
The fruit bat’s discovery and identification was also put out last week in the Journal of Mammalogy.
"(The discovery shows that) the country’s endemism (number of animals found only in the Philippines) is continuously rising. It is even possible that there are animals that we haven’t found yet and that if they are disturbed, they might become extinct even before they are discovered," Lim said.
She said with the latest discovery, the Philippines now has a total of 74 species of bats, with 26 found only in the country.
Lim said the distinct features of the new species of bat are three white stripes on its face and the brownish color of its body. She described the body as "very colorful," with the brown shades varying in each bat.
She said most of the bat’s hair is orange and it sports a black beard, which distinguishes it from all other known fruit bats.
It feeds on fruits and is found in lowland forests approximately 100 meters above sea level, Lim said.
At this point, she said, it is still not clear whether the stripe-faced bat is found only on Mt. Siburan or also in other parts of Mindoro.
The number of bats of the said species is also still unidentified at the moment, she added.
She also quoted Esselstyn as saying: "The discovery of a conspicuously colored mammal in Mindoro emphasizes the need for future... biodiversity and conservation priorities on the island."
She noted that of the 42 species of native terrestrial mammals found in Mindoro, eight are actually endemic to the province.
"With the discovery (of stripe-faced fruit bat), it provides us more scientific basis to establish more comprehensive conservation programs for Mindoro and not just focused on the tamaraw," she said.