Data from: Quantifying the damage caused by fruit bats to backyard lychee trees in Mauritius and evaluating the benefits of protective netting
Tollington, Simon et al. (2019), Data from: Quantifying the damage caused by fruit bats to backyard lychee trees in Mauritius and evaluating the benefits of protective netting, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.5q041fq
The Mauritius fruit bat (Pteropus niger) has been the subject of repeated culling campaigns, apparently in response to pressure from the fruit-growing industry concerned over damage to commercially valuable orchard crops such as lychees. More than 31,000 fruit-bearing lychee trees also exist in private backyards making this an issue pertinent to a wide cross-section of the Mauritian general public and not just those involved in commercial fruit production. The level of damage caused by bats to fruit crops is often debated and the low number of robust damage assessment studies hampers mitigation efforts. During the fruiting season of 2016/2017, we assessed the damage among backyard lychee trees attributable to fruit bats and other causes around Vacoas-Phoenix, Central Mauritius and evaluated the impact of using protective netting as a mitigation strategy. Fruit yield from panicles that were protected from depredation by nylon netting was approximately one third greater than that from unprotected panicles. We suspect that fruit bats were responsible for approximately 42% of the total damage but illustrate the difficulties in attributing damage to a single cause in such assessments. Although we demonstrate the value of protective netting we recognize that barriers to implementation exist and that a more holistic approach that incorporates crop protection, forest restoration strategies and addresses negative public attitudes towards bats in general is required to ensure the persistence of this endemic species.