BY GERRY LEE GORIT
CATARMAN, CAMIGUIN – A colony of bats, numbering about more than 500, was found by authorities in the middle of Barangay Poblacion of this town as local government officials are now putting up measures to save these flying mammals.
Camiguin is known far and wide for its white beaches, resorts, islands, springs, waterfalls, dive sites, Cemetery, among others.
Local executives believe that the presence of the more than 500 golden crown flying fox or “kabug” in Poblacion will become an added attraction in Camiguin.
Its scientific name is Acerodon jubatus and the environment department has classified as critically endangered.
According to the locals, the colony of bats has started to settle on two tall trees around eight years ago.
The trees stand near the barangay road in the center of the village where clusters of houses, public market, grocery stores and dining establishments are located.
Don Quililan, forest technician at the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) in Camiguin, said the kind of bats in that live in Catarman are considered as the largest in the Philippines.
Quililan said that killing a critically endangered animal such as “kabug” is punishable by law, with penalty of up to P2 million.
Catarman Mayor Kiterio Antonion Palarca II said the bat colony has the potential to become a rare tourist attraction in his town.
The mayor said the municipal legislative council has crafted an ordinance that would declare the colony’s habitat as a protected sanctuary.
To ensure that the bats will stay put, Palarca said they have to see to it that aside from prohibiting loud noises, the trees that they live in must never be cut down or their branches trimmed.
He said the bats’ food of choice are mango, nuts from talisay or tropical almond trees, lanzones, which are abundant in the island, and other wild fruits.
Palarca said that the residents have been aware of the bats’ presence that whenever they fly out in the middle of the day, he sends in the police to check if someone has disturbed them.
The bats’ presence in Poblacion is a living proof that we are protecting our environment. Imagine, they chose to live among people than in the wilderness, he added.
Quililan said the PENRO has been conducting information drive to inform the residents that the golden crown flying fox is “critically endangered” due to its low population.
In a statement, Camiguin Gov. Jurdin Jesus Romualdo said Camiguin is blessed with a diverse flora and fauna, thanks to its people’s vigilance and care for the environment.
“These bats will become an added attraction to our island’s tourism industry. Now, our guests, especially environmentalists and wildlife lovers, will have more reason to visit Camiguin,” Romualdo added.