May 17, 2008 – Lahore – THE Higher Education Commission (HEC) had approved a research project of the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS), titled “Diversity and Conservation Biology of Bats in Selected Protected Areas of Pakistan.”
According to a press statement, the Department of Wildlife and Ecology of the UVAS will execute this research project, the will cost Rs 3.177 million and will be completed in three years.
Department of Wildlife and Ecology Chairman Dr Muhammad Mehmood-ul-Hassan is the Principal Investigator of the project.
The project aims to assess population status and diversity of the bat fauna of Pakistan using cutting-edge technologies like bat bioacoustics, mitochondrial DNA and to analyse and compare temporal and spatial variations in the composition of bat groupings at the same and different habitats.
The university will prepare distribution maps of each species using Geographic Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) in order to refine geospatial distribution and habitat preferences of various bat species of the study areas.
Under the project, the Department of Wildlife of the UVAS will produce trained manpower through its MPhil and PhD degree programmes for the study and conservation of biodiversity in Pakistan.
These studies will mainly be conducted in Margalla Hills National Park Islamabad, Chinji National Park Khushab and Lal Suhanra National Park Bahawalpur and in some cropped and non-cropped areas of Pakistan.
According to Dr Mehmood-ul-Hassan, bats are found almost everywhere in Pakistan and are important for the maintenance of a healthy ecosystem, but they are seen with mild disdain to revulsion by the general public.
“Fruit bats are important pollinators and seeds dispersers. Insectivorous bats consume millions of insects, which would otherwise destroy valuable crops or spread diseases,” he said.
He added that bats were rarely considered in either environmental policies or educational projects and as a result, Pakistan was unable to meet its commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), of which it is a signatory.
Since there has been no long term field study on any bat species, Dr Mehmood said the proposed project would provide baseline information on the biodiversity of the country’s poorly-known bat fauna.
While policies governing the management of biodiversity are in place, the paucity of scientific information on the bats and lack of staff trained in wildlife science are impediments to effective conservation of natural resources.
“This project is designed to cover both these aspects,” Dr Mehmood added.