Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Chiroptera Pteropodidae

Scientific Name: Eidolon helvum
Species Authority: (Kerr, 1792)
Common Name(s):
English African Straw-coloured Fruit-bat, Pale Xantharpy, Staw-coloured Flying Fox, Straw-coloured Fruit Bat
Eidolon helvum (Anderson, 1907) subspecies sabaeum
Taxonomic Notes: The subspecies E. h. sabaeum (Anderson, 1907) is known only from Yemen and Saudi Arabia and is possibly threatened (see Bergmans 1999). The taxonomic status of populations in the Anr Mountains of Niger is unclear (Simmons 2005).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Mickleburgh, S., Hutson, A.M., Bergmans, W., Fahr, J. & Racey, P.A.
Reviewer(s): Hutson, A.M., Racey, P.A. (Chiroptera Red List Authority) & Cox, N. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Listed as Near Threatened because this species is in significant decline (but at a rate of less than 30% over three generations (approximately fifteen years)) because it is being seriously over-harvested for food and medicine, making the species close to qualifying for Vulnerable. Under criterion A2d.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2004 Least Concern (LC)
1996 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This bat is broadly distributed across the lowland rainforest and savanna zones of Africa from Senegal in the west, through to South Africa in the south and Ethiopia in the east (possibly ranging into Djibouti and southern Eritrea). It is also present on the extreme southwest Arabian Peninsula, where it has been recorded from Yemen and Saudi Arabia (Harrison and Bates 1991). Populations of this bat occur on several offshore islands including the Gulf of Guinea islands and Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia (off Tanzania) (Bergmans 1990; Simmons 2005). There is a possibly disjunct population in the Air Mountains of Niger. Distribution at northern and southern extremes of the range is patchy and erratic. It is also sparse or absent in large areas of the Horn of Africa, central East Africa, and elsewhere (Bergmans, 1990). This bat is a migratory species in parts of its range; populations migrate from the West African forest north into the savanna zone during the major wet season. It ranges from sea level to around 2,000 m asl (Ruwenzori Mountains).
Countries occurrence:
Angola (Angola); Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea; Ethiopia; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Lesotho; Liberia; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Sao Tomé and Principe; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Sierra Leone; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Uganda; Yemen; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Upper elevation limit (metres): 2000
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: In general this is a common species forming large colonies of thousands to even millions of individuals. Within colonies they form tight clusters of up to 100 animals, although in particularly large colonies this clustering may not be so obvious. Colonies may show extreme roost-site fidelity. During migration this species disperses into small groups. There is evidence of a widespread decline (P. Racey pers. comm.). A well-known colony in Kampala (Uganda) declined in numbers over a forty-year period from ca. 250,000 animals to 40,000 in 2007 (Monadjem et al. 2007). Eidolon helvum is the most heavily harvested bat for bushmeat in West and Central Africa, and this is believed to be a major factor in reportied population declines (P. Racey pers. comm.).
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This adaptable species has been recorded from a very wide range of habitats. It is commonly found in moist and dry tropical rain forest, including evergreen forest habitats in the form of coastal (including mangrove) and riverine forest, through moist and dry savanna and mosaics of these and similar habitat types. Populations can persist in modified habitats and the species is often recorded in urban areas, such as wooded city parks.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In general there are no major threats to this widespread and adaptable species. It is, however, locally threatened in parts of its range by severe deforestation, and more generally across West and Central Africa by hunting for food and medicinal use. It is the most heavily harvested bat for bushmeat in West and Central Africa, and one of the most frequently consumed mammals in this region (P. Racey pers. comm.). Large pre-migration colonies are considered particularly vulnerable to any threats. In some areas it is considered to be a pest species and roosting locations may be restricted by cutting down trees. Trees are also cut down in order to catch bats for the market (P. Racey pers. comm.).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is present in a few protected areas across its range, with a large roosting colony in Kasanka National Park, Zambia. There is a need to identify and protect important roosting sites, and a better understanding of the migratory patterns of this species would be beneficial to any conservation activities. The highest priority is to limit the harvesting of this species to sustainable levels.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.5. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability: Suitable  
1. Forest -> 1.6. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland
suitability: Suitable  
1. Forest -> 1.7. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Mangrove Vegetation Above High Tide Level
suitability: Suitable  
1. Forest -> 1.8. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Swamp
suitability: Unknown  
1. Forest -> 1.9. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Montane
suitability: Suitable  
2. Savanna -> 2.1. Savanna - Dry
suitability: Suitable  
2. Savanna -> 2.2. Savanna - Moist
suitability: Suitable  
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.3. Artificial/Terrestrial - Plantations
suitability: Suitable  
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.4. Artificial/Terrestrial - Rural Gardens
suitability: Suitable  
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.5. Artificial/Terrestrial - Urban Areas
suitability: Suitable  
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.2. Trade management

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓   National : ✓  International : ✓ 

♦  Medicine - human & veterinary
 Local : ✓   National : ✓  International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Bergmans, W. 1990. Taxonomy and biogeography of African fruit bats (Mammalia, Megachiroptera).

DeFrees, S. L. and Wilson, D. E. 1988. Eidolon helvum. Mammalian Species 312: 1-5.

Harrison, D.L. and Bates, P.J.J. 1991. The Mammals of Arabia. Harrison Zoological Museum, Sevenoaks, UK.

IUCN. 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

Kingdon, J. 1974. East African Mammals: An Atlas of Evolution in Africa. Academic Press, London, USA.

Mickleburgh, S. P., Hutson, A. M. and Racey, P. A. 1992. Old World Fruit-Bats - An Action Plan for their Conservation. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

Monadjem, A., Taylor, P., Cotterill, F. P. D., Kityo, R. and Fahr, J. 2007. Conservation status of bats in sub-Saharan Africa. Bat Research: 267.

Nowak, R.M. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA and London, UK.

Rathbun, G.B. (subeditor). 2005. Macroscelidea. In: J.D. Skinner and C.T. Chimimba (eds), The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion, 3rd edition, pp. 22-34. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Simmons, N. B. 2005. Order Chiroptera. In: D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder (eds), Mammal Species of the World, pp. 312-529. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, USA.

Weber, N. and Fahr, J. 2007. Survey of endemic and globally threatened bat species in the Fouta Djallon Highlands for conservation priorities in Guinea. Van Tienhoven Foundation for International Nature Protection and Conservation International's Critical Species Fund, Ulm University .

Citation: Mickleburgh, S., Hutson, A.M., Bergmans, W., Fahr, J. & Racey, P.A. 2008. Eidolon helvum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T7084A12824968. . Downloaded on 09 October 2015.
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