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How to find new species for St. Eustatius: Part II

Posted on 27-10-2015 by Employees of the Dutch Mammal Society: Sil Westra, Wesley Overman, Ellen van Norren


Every day after the hike at around 11 am we went to find bats during the day. With a big antenna hanging out of the car, we drove miles and miles to pick up the signal from the 2 bats with a transmitter. We still hope to find them, but until now we didn’t pick up the signal, which can be picked up from 2 km. In fact that is the size of the whole island when you are in the middle of the island… We still asume that the bats are in a cave somewhere. So after some days we started to ask everybody on the island to give us details on locations of caves. The iguana researchers Tim and Thijs told us about a cave near Boven National Park. One of us was small enough to enter the cave, but we only found goats (bones). We did collect some guano (bat poop). STENAPA (St. Eustatius National Parks) brought us to a sea cave on the north of the island. Unfortunately, the sea was too rough to enter the sea caves. But these caves are very worthwhile investigating, because they can be home to fish-catching bats (noctilius), which is an unknown species for Statia until now. 


After some sleep during the day and a warm dinner we went on organizing permission to catch bats at swimming pools, finding bats during the day, processing results from cameras and mistnets.

What we also brought from home were live traps. Around the hotel we set up 10 live traps that we checked every morning and evening, which sometimes was a bit difficult in our planning. That was also the reason we didn’t set up more live traps: one has to be sure that the live traps are checked twice a day. We have been catching some black rats (Rattua rattus) and ground lizards (ameiva erythrocephala).

 

Until the penultimate day, the species of wild mammals that we have caught: Jamaican fruitbat (Artibeus jamaicensis), Lesser Antillian fruitbat (Brachyphylla cavernarum), Velvety Free-tailed bat (Molussus molussus), black rat (Rattus rattus). Well, that is to say: we have been catching parasites on the bats. These might be new species for the island!

 

With 7 litres of water per person, food for 2 days, a hammock, the mistnet poles and a box with research material we hiked to the crater of the Quill. That is a lot of kilos at 35 degrees Celcius. But it was worth it: on the rim of the crater we saw dozens of bats flying over our heads to the crater at sunset. 

At 8pm the big surprise was in the net: the fourth (and last) species known to the island, being a kind of treebat (Ardops Nichollsi) and besides that a new species to the island! It is just like you get a small present out of the wrapping paper… A small bat with a long tongue. A noseleaf and ears. It is the Monophyllus plethodon, a species known to the surrounding islands, but not from Statia.

The next morning we got a desert: at sundawn in the crater we saw a ‘butterfly’ in the shape of a bat. It can bet he Mexican funnel-eared bat (Natalus stramineus), also known to the surrounding islands.

In one day from 3 to 6 species, that is a great finish!