CHICAGO (jGLi) – When the large flowers of Durian tree open at night, the fruit-eating Philippine bats, whose large eyes allow them to see at night, are hard at work pollinating the flowers – transferring the pollen, from the male part of the plant or stamens of flowers to the female part of the plant, the carpel, to fertilize the flower so that fruits can develop.
On the other hand, other bats, the insectivorous kind, which do not pollinate the Durian flowers, “are insect control agents. They are primarily nocturnal insect eaters or predators of night flying insects that include crop pests that damage the rice, corn and other plants.” Thousands of these Asian Ghost Bats (Megaderma spasma) in attics eat “50,000 insects every night,” including “moths that feed on corn or rice, saving farmers substantial” amounts of money from buying pesticides.
These are two among the reasons that the Filipino people need to understand why they should help in the conservation of bats and other wildlife species of the Philippines that are being threatened with extinction.
Nina R. Ingle, Ph. D., told this reporter over the phone that she has been a conservation ecologist for over 25 years in the Philippines but she has still a lot to learn about the bats and other vertebrates numbering about a thousand, over 600 of them are endemic or can only be found in the Philippines.
“Without bats (cave fruit bats called Eonycteris spelaea), how will Durian (Durio zibethinus L.) tree bear fruits? As you know Durian is a growing industry in Davao and other parts of the southern Philippines. Where are they going to get the fruits, the ice cream, candies and other by-products of the tree?” Dr. Ingle (pronounced “single” without “s”) asked. She is currently a curriculum consultant of her alma mater the Ateneo de Davao University High School, where she integrates environmental content and research into academic studies. Durian fruit contributes US$120 million to economies in Southeast Asia each year, according to Wikipedia.
The 46-year-old conservation academician and researcher was in town to receive the prestigious Parker/Gentry Award in recognition of her commitment to biodiversity conservation through research, management and education.
The Parker/Gentry award is given annually by the Chicago, Illinois-based Field Museum of Natural History to honor an outstanding individual, team or organization, whose efforts have had a significant impact on preserving the world’s rich natural heritage and whose actions can serve as a model to others. Dr. Ingle is the 17th and first Filipino and the second Asian to receive the award with a modest cash amount from an anonymous donor. The other Asian awardee was a Chinese.
A Filipino British dual citizen, Dr. Ingle’s commitment to biodiversity conservation exemplifies the spirit of the Parker/Gentry Award. Early in her career, she chose to focus on bats, fascinated by their diversity and their role in forest ecology as seed dispersers, pollinators, and insect predators.
She was born in London, England to a Filipino mother, Lydia Rivera, who worked as a clerk at the Philippine Embassy in London. Dr. Ingle’s mother met her father, David Ingle, an electrical and mechanical engineer, in London.
70 SPECIES OF BATS IDENTIFIED
Dr. Ingle co-wrote the first identification key to the 70 species of bats then known from the Philippines with Field Museum mammal curator Lawrence R. Heaney, Ph.D., in a study entitled, “A Key to the Bats of the Philippine Islands,” in Fieldiana, Zoology, 1992.
She said that the heaviest bat in the world, the endangered Golden-crowned Flying Fox (Acerodon jubatus) is only found in the Philippines. About 40 species of Philippine bats live in caves, where they can form colonies in the hundreds or thousands and even over a million.
Dr. Ingle said she was fascinated by the bats because of their roles in the forest and in agricultural areas. “They eat insects, pollinate plants, and eat fruits while bringing seeds to new locations that grow plants and serve as reforestation agents.”
She clarified there are no blood-sucking or vampire bats in the Philippines, saying there are only three species of blood-sucking bats in the world out of the more than 1,000 bat species. Vampire bats are only found in South and Central Americas.
“Bats are like people and have only one baby at a time, once or twice a year. This means that their numbers don’t increase rapidly.” Dr. Ingle added.
Dr. Ingle said she is honored to get the Parker/Gentry award named after two outstanding field biologists who died in the field in an aircraft accident while doing research in Latin America.
“CONTRIBUTIONS FROM PH WILDLIFE CONSERVATION”
“The award represents the collective contributions from the Philippines for wildlife conservation, particularly by members of the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Philippines that we founded 21 years ago. I’ve come to increasingly value the importance of environmental education in conservation. It is important to work with local communities on conservation through education in the public schools in every barangay. It is an opportunity for others to learn how rich is the Philippines in wildlife resources. We have more than 1,000 species of mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles, and over 600 of those are found only in the Philippines like the Philippine Eagle and Cloud Rats. More species, previously unknown to science, are being discovered every year.”
Dr. Ingle has worked closely with Dr. Lawrence Heaney, curator of Mammals at the Field Museum of Natural History. Dr. Heaney said he took “interest in primary research in the Philippines in the study of evolution and ecology and conservation because unlike the Galapagos Island in Ecuador made famous by Charles Darwin, Galapagos has only four native species of mammals while the Philippines has more than 200 and to study the biological and geologic history of the Philippines is wonderful and interesting.” He co-wrote Vanishing Treasures of the Philippine Rainforest with Filipino botanist Jack Regalado, Jr. (http://archive.fieldmuseum.org/vanishing_treasures/), published in 1998.
In her presentation during the Parker-Gentry awarding event, Dr. Ingle said that although the Philippines used to be almost completely covered by tropical rainforest, only 20% of the land area remains forested. This threatens all forest dependent plants and animals, and also threatens the watersheds on which all Filipinos depend. She said that local communities are key to wildlife conservation. ([email protected])
DR. NINA R. INGLE — Photo of Dr. Nina R. Ingle, who earned M.S. and Ph. D. degrees at Cornell University, Natural Resources, in Ithaca, New York. –(jGLiPhoto courtesy of Dr. Nina R. Ingle.)
FILIPINA-BRITISH WINS PARKER/GENTRY AWARD — Dr. Nina R. Ingle (second from left) is shown holding the 2012 Parker/Gentry Award during ceremonies held last Oct. 11 in the reception hall of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois. Looking on from left are Field Museum President and CEO Richard Lariviere, Philippine Consul General Leo M. Herrera-Lim and Mrs. Jan Lariviere. The award bears the names of the late Theodore A. Parker III and Alwyn Gentry, ardent conservationists and leading naturalists. Parker, an ornithologist, and Gentry, a botanist, died in 1993, while surveying hill forests of western Ecuador. Parker and Gentry worked closely with Field Museum scientists on several joint efforts, including rapid inventories for conservation. (jGLiPhoto courtesy of the Philippine Consulate General’s office in Chicago, Illinois)
FRUIT BAT OF LUZON — Photo of a cave fruit bat found in Luzon called Eonycteris spelaea is the same species that pollinates Durian (D. zibethinus) flowers at night in southern Philippines. The process (pollination) enables the flowers to develop into fruits. It was reported that in a study in Malaysia in 1970s, Durians were pollinated almost exclusively by cave fruit bats (Eonycteris spelaea). However, a 1996 study indicated two species of Durian, D. grandiflorus and D. oblongus, were pollinated by spiderhunters (Nectariniidae) and other species, D. kutejensis, was pollinated by giant honey bees and birds as well as bats. (jGLiphoto by Joseph G. Lariosa from http://fieldmuseum.org/explore/synopsis-philippine-mammals)
INSECT-EATING BAT OF LUZON — Photo of a common Asian Ghost Bat (Megaderma spasma) helps rural farmers eats the insects, like moths that feed on rice and corn. Without this bat, farmers will have a hard time keeping up with the damage caused by moths and other insects to their plants. (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa from http://fieldmuseum.org/explore/synopsis-philippine-mammals)
DURIAN FLOWERS CLOSED BY DAY — Photo of Durian flowers from Wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durian)