Mount Suswa is a spectacular mountain with a unique double crater system in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Each year, it receives over 10,000 safari visitors, who come for hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, and cave exploration. The mountain is also refuge for increasingly threatened wildlife including lions, leopards, hyenas, giraffes and bats.
Bats represent 25% of mammal diversity and are essential for seed dispersal, pollination, and pest control. Despite this, they are much misunderstood, especially in a time of covid, and desperately need support. Cave bats are particularly sensitive to the destruction of roosts. The vulnerable Harrison’s Giant Mastiff Bat uses volcanic caves in the iconic Mount Suswa Conservancy where crucial maternity colonies are endangered by expanding ecotourism, human disturbance, and loss of forests.
This project seeks to create awareness and conserve the highly vulnerable, charismatic Harrison’s Giant Mastiff Bat, which has maternal colonies in the caves of Mt Suswa. This species, Otomops harrisoni, was named in 2015 in honour of our very own David Harrison.
Supported by 150 volunteers, the project will restore local foraging habitats by planting 15,000 native seedlings over 1,000 hectares; train local farmers in roost conservation; increase visitor experience whilst reducing their impact; and empower local guides (women and men) to deliver education programmes that counter prejudice and fear, and raise awareness of the vital role bats play in preserving healthy ecosystems, essential for human prosperity and nature’s survival. It will also promote enhanced visitor experience by training local guides (women and men) and promoting and facilitating sustainable ecotourism practices.
The project is led by Dr. Paul Webala, a global expert on bats, and a senior lecturer in wildlife biology at the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management, Maasai Mara University, Kenya. Paul is an Honorary Research Fellow of the Harrison Institute. Paul’s team includes local Kenyan scientists, students, and conservationists. His international team is headed by Dr. Dave Waldien (USA) and supported by Dr. Paul Bates (UK), both of whom have extensive experience of bat research and community-led conservation worldwide.