Pteropus alecto 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Chiroptera Pteropodidae

Scientific Name: Pteropus alecto Temminck, 1837
Common Name(s):
English Black Flying Fox, Central Flying-fox
Spanish Zorro Volador Negro
Pteropus banakrisi Richards & Hall, 2002

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-05-30
Assessor(s): Roberts, B., Eby, P., Tsang, S.M. & Sheherazade
Reviewer(s): Mildenstein, T.
Contributor(s): Breed, A.C., Welbergen, J.A., Hamilton, S., Parsons, J.G., Pearson, T., Lavery, T.H. & Leary, T.
Pteropus alecto is listed Least Concern. In Australia, the species has a large population, widespread distribution, and expanding southward margin. A substantial proportion of the range occurs in remote areas of Australia largely unaffected by land clearing and other significant threats (Northern Territory, Western Australia and Cape York in Queensland, Bradshaw 2012). Threats from heat related mortality events affect a relatively small proportion of the range at latitudes greater than approximately 26.30o, although they are likely to increase in frequency with climate change (Welbergen et al. 2008). Intense hunting threatens populations in Sulawesi (population has declined more than 20-25% over the last three generations (S. Tsang and Sheherazade pers. comm.), and hunting and habitat modification threaten the species in Papua New Guinea.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Pteropus alecto is common in coastal subtropical and tropical northern and eastern Australia, from Shark Bay In Western Australia to south-eastern New South Wales (Hall and Richards 2000, Churchill 2008). It is also found through the Torres Strait including Poruma, Warraber and Boigu Island (Helgen 2004, Lavery et al. 2012), in parts of southern New Guinea including the coastal plain of the Western, Gulf and Central Provinces until the Yule Islands (Bonaccorso 1998, A. Breed and T. Leary pers. comm.), and the Indonesian islands of Sulawesi, Salayar, Sumba and Sava (Breed et al. 2013, A. Breed pers comm.). In northern Australia, P. alecto has been found as far as 250 km inland (Thompson1991), but typically occurs in coastal areas (Hall and Richards 2000). Over the past century, P. alecto has expanded its southern range limit by approximately 10.5 degrees latitude from Rochamption, Queensland to Wollongong, New South Wales (Roberts et al. 2012a, J. Martin pers. comm.), with single (vagrant) individuals reported as far south as Melbourne, Victoria, and Adelaide, South Australia.

The species was previously reported in eastern Java, Lombok and the Kangean islands, however, recent information suggests that P. alecto have not been confirmed in these locations in recent decades (A. Breed pers comm.). Previously collected specimens from Timor that were thought to be P. alecto were indicated to be P. vampyrus according to mtDNA sequence analysis (A. Breed pers. comm.).
Countries occurrence:
Australia; Indonesia; Papua New Guinea
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):1000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Pteropus alecto is generally common over much of its range. In New Guinea and the Torres Strait numbers may fluctuate from year to year, possibly seasonally (Bonaccorso 1998, Breed et al. 2013, T. Leary and T. Lavery pers. comm.).

Recent genetic work for P. alecto indicates that the Sulawesi population is genetically distinct, and there is some evidence of historical or current gene flow between locations in eastern, northern and western Australia, southern Papua New Guinea and Sumba (Indonesia) (A. Breed pers. comm.). The species is now locally extirpated from North Sulawesi due to intense hunting, and rapidly declining throughout Sulawesi as hunters expand bushmeat collection into other provinces (Sheherazade and Tsang, 2015). In other provinces of Sulawesi, known resident colonies are not officially protected, there are no laws nor any conservation activities in Sulawesi for P. alecto (Sheherazade and S.M. Tsang pers. comm.).

Part of P. alecto’s population in eastern Australia most heavily affected by habitat clearing and land use change has been included in State and National Flying-fox monitoring programs since mid-2007. Total population estimates in the area vary widely, presumably in relation to migration to and from the survey area, estimates from a sub-sample of roosts in this area ranged from 108,000 to 250,000 in 2016. However, little in known about population size and trends elsewhere in Australia and across its range in New Guinea and Indonesia. Further surveys of the distribution and population size of this species are needed in these locations.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This largely coastal species is found in areas of mangrove and swamp forest, and in tropical moist forest and in savannas near water (Loughland 1998, Bonaccorso 1998, Churchill 2008), it is also found in urban environments (Markus et al. 2008). It roosts in large colonies of several hundred to tens of thousands of animals (Bonaccorso 1998, Welbergen 2008) in patches of trees and dense vegetation, and can form mixed-species colonies with other flying fox species including P. scapulatus, P. poliocephalus, P. conspicillatus, P. neohibernicus, and Acerodon celebensis. There is one exception of P. alecto roosting in a natural limestone tower in northern Australia (Chillego, Stager and Hall 1983). In northern Queensland where both P. alecto and P. conspicillatus occur, they are typically not recorded at the same roost (Churchill 2008). However, small groups have been observed co-roosting at a limited number of sites, e.g. Ingham, Cairns and Finch Hatton (Parson et al. 2010, J. Welbergen pers. comm.). In Sulawesi, P. alecto are typically found co-roosting with Acerodon celebensis (S.M. Tsang and S. Wiantoro pers. comm.).

Pteropus alecto is capable of long-distance movements, with cumulative movements of hundreds of kilometers within a year, including across international boundaries and transversing significant distances across the sea(Breed et al. 2010). For example, using satellite telemetry, P. alecto was recorded transiting the Torres Strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea (Western Provience), a distance of 150 km and moving between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia (Breed et al. 2010). Nightly movements of >60 km between roosts (J. Welbergen pers. comm.) and distances of up to 220 km in two days between roosts (B. Roberts pers comm.) have been recorded. In Papua New Guinea camps range in size from several hundred to up to 3,000, and their locations may shift frequently with many camps not present from one year to the next (A. Breed and T. Leary pers. comm).

However, the movement patterns of P. alecto vary between individuals, while some move long distances, others remain relatively sedentary. Some individual P. alecto can adopt a primarily sedentary lifestyle in areas where a high diversity of food plants provide a continuous food supply (Markus 2001, Breed et al. 2010).

The primary food source in Australia is the flowers of Eucalyptus, Banksia, Melaleuca species, plus rainforest and exotic fruits (Markus and Hall 2004). Using radio-tracking individual animals were shown to move a total of 26 km during nightly feeding in urban Brisbane. Using satellite telemetry, nightly movements of 32 km between feeding sites and roosts have been recorded (B. Roberts pers. comm.). P. alecto can maintain fidelity to feeding sites for an average of one month, although considerable variation is likely (McWilliams 1986). A study in northern Australia found that the feeding distances of P. alecto changed seasonally, with individuals travelling further during the dry season when feeding on Eucalyptus species compared with the wet season when feeding on locally abundant rainforest fruit (Palmer 1997, Palmer and Woinarski 1999). Some variation between movements of male and females P. alecto has been reported, with lactating females traveling greater distances between roosts and foraging sites than males (Palmer and Woinarski 1999).

Pregnancy in P. alecto lasts for 27 weeks (Martin et al. 1996) and females annually give birth to a single young. In northern Australia at 12ºS most births occur between January and March, in contrast to October and November at 27ºS in eastern Australia (Vardon and Tidemann 1998). However, a small proportion of young are born outside the major birth peaks in both areas (Vardon and Tidemann 1998). The timing of reproduction may vary according to the seasonal abundance of regional food resources (Vardon and Tidemann 1998).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The species is hunted for food.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In Australia, threats are similar to other Pteropus species that overlap in range. They include habitat modification, lethal pest control, hunting for food and trade, heat related mortality, dispersal of camps, entanglement in barbed wire fences and backyard drape netting, and electrocution on powerlines.

In Indonesia, this species is sold in North Sulawesi, particularly near Manado. The species is now locally extirpated in North Sulawesi, and hunting has expanded into other provinces of Sulawesi to meet local demand. Hunting is a serious threat to population persistence, as current levels of trade are unsustainable (Sheherazade and Tsang 2015). Hunters also noted a decline in population size (Sheherazade, pers. comm.), which requires further study to corroborate.

In New Guinea, hunting for food and habitat modification are probably the greatest threats (T. Leary pers. comm.).

As this species expands its range southwards in Australia it is increasingly exposed to days of extreme temperature that can lead to high rates of mortality, particularly in young (Markus et al. 2008, Welbergen et al. 2008, J. Welbergen pers comm). The frequency of these mortality events is likely to increase with climate change (Welbergen et al. 2008). In January 2014, approximately 46,000 animals in 52 camps died during an extreme heat event in South-East Queensland, representing approximately 50 percent of the population present at the time (J. Welbergen pers comm ).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is listed on Appendix II of CITES. Some roosting and feeding habitats are in protected areas, but a very small proportion of the population is likely to occur in protected areas at any time.

An unknown proportion of the population in eastern Australia has been monitored in State and National Flying-fox monitoring programs since mid-2007.

Lethal crop protection is regulated in eastern Australia.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.4. Forest - Temperate
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
1. Forest -> 1.5. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
1. Forest -> 1.6. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
1. Forest -> 1.8. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Swamp
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.3. Artificial/Terrestrial - Plantations
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:No
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.4. Artificial/Terrestrial - Rural Gardens
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.5. Artificial/Terrestrial - Urban Areas
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.6. Artificial/Terrestrial - Subtropical/Tropical Heavily Degraded Former Forest
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Systematic monitoring scheme:Yes
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over part of range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:Yes
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.1. Housing & urban areas
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion

1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.3. Tourism & recreation areas
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.1. Shifting agriculture
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.2. Small-holder farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.3. Agro-industry farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing  ♦ severity:Rapid Declines  
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.3. Persecution/control
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.3. Logging & wood harvesting -> 5.3.5. Motivation Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.4. Habitat trends
0. Root -> 4. Other

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Citation: Roberts, B., Eby, P., Tsang, S.M. & Sheherazade. 2017. Pteropus alecto. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T18715A22080057. . Downloaded on 24 September 2017.
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