Is the Egyptian fruit-bat Rousettus aegyptiacus a pest in Israel? An analysis of the bat's diet and implications for its conservation
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The Egyptian fruit-bat Rousettus aegyptiacus is regarded as a pest for agriculture. However, no quantitative data on its diet have been collected in Israel or in other Mediterranean areas, and control measures in the past reduced populations of insectivorous bats in Israel. We therefore studied the relative importance of native versus commercially cultivated fruit plants by analysis of bat faeces. Droppings were collected during 1993–1995 in two roost-sites in the Carmel National Park. Results show that the bat feeds mainly on fruits but leaves and pollen are also eaten. Leaf eating was observed mainly during winter, when bats may face times of severe decrease in fruit availability and quality. Only four fruit species (15%) of the bat's diet are commercially grown and only two of these in the research area. Therefore the definition of the fruit-bat as a major agricultural pest should be re-examined. Two effective methods for controlling damage caused by bats are discussed.