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Project Rufus

Conducted collaborative research and local conservation awareness-raising to enhance the long-term survival of Pteropus rufus and contribute to an international body of knowledge regarding their lifecycle and behaviour.

The Madagascar Flying Fox (Pteropus rufus) is a species of fruit megabat unique to Madagascar, roosting predominantly in coastal regions, within a range of habitats. P. rufus is an important species for the general health of the forest as its ability to travel long distances each night in search of food makes it a valuable long-distance seed disperser and pollinator, especially important to fragmented forest ecosystems such as in the Anosy region. The Sainte Luce colony is of significant importance as it roosts within a large, botanically diverse forest fragment within the Sainte Luce littoral forest. There is currently one colony inhabiting the Sainte Luce littoral forest but it faces great threats from the local community who also depend upon the forest for survival.

P. rufus is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, based on an estimated population reduction of over 30% in the last three generations

IUCN, 2016

Research conducted by the SEED Madagascar Conservation Research Programme (SCRP) estimates that since 1982 the Madagascar Flying Fox population in Sainte Luce has decreased by 65%. SEED needs to support the development of a comprehensive conservation strategy from within the community if the Sainte Luce colony is going to survive.

Phase I (2016-2018)

Our Conservation Research Programme volunteers collected data on the feeding habits of the Sainte Luce colony of P. rufus, to advise on a unique conservation strategy for the colony. Whilst volunteers conducted this research, SEED staff worked with the local community and key stakeholders to develop a locally enforced protected area around the colony’s roost tree. With the endorsement of local organisations, a ban on hunting and logging was enforced, limiting the threats to the population. Our Community Development volunteers were also involved with Project Rufus, building and erecting a bat hide in the protected area. This allowed guided tours to be run by local guides to view the bats whilst causing minimal disturbance to the colony. These tours provided an alternative source of income to logging and hunting for the local community, and enhanced ownership of the conservation effort within Sainte Luce.

Project Rufus also supported environmental education as a method of conservation. SCRP staff and volunteers conducted environmental education sessions in the two schools in Sainte Luce and conducted mass mobilisation events across the community. SEED anticipates that highlighting the importance of P. rufus and raising awareness of its local threats will allow the communities to identify, monitor and tackle the threats to its survival.

Our Progress

  • Conducted community meetings and surveys to monitor P. rufus hunting and promote its conservation
  • A locally enforced exclusion zone, banning hunting and logging, was created
  • A community-managed elevated P. rufus viewing platform was erected
  • P. rufus conservation was the focus of 2016's World Environment Day celebrations
  • A nursery containing 130 guava seedlings and 100 fig seedlings has been established to boost food availability in the region
  • In-situ research is ongoing


Principal donors to the project include: Rufford Foundation, Phoenix Zoo, Minnesota Zoo, James Hall, and Lake District Wildlife Park.

We are seeking funding for the second phase of the project. If you are interested in funding Project Rufus please get in touch.