equator in East
Africa, Kenya is an
confront its national
them a burgeoning
drought and climate
change, and a too-small
cadre of scientists
and resource managers.
Since 1998, The Field
collaborated with two
Wildlife Service (KWS)
and the National
Museums of Kenya
the nation's scientific challenges
and train personnel.
Richness of African bat faunas by country (from Patterson & Webala, 2012), showing the remarkable richness of East African faunas.
One of these
challenges is the
management of Kenya's
populations. Bats represent fully one-quarter of Kenya's ca. 400 mammal species. Scientists are only
now realizing the
services provided by
insects, bats are
crucial -- if
usually overlooked -- partners in modern agriculture.
Myotis welwitschii from Kisumu Impala Sanctuary, Jan 2012 (photo by Bruce Patterson)
A recent study (Boyles JG, PM Cryan, GF McCracken & TH Kunz  Economic importance of bats in agriculture. Science 332, 41-42) estimated that consumption of insects by American bats is worth $3.7 to 50 billion annually in avoided crop losses and/or pesticide applications. Because Kenyan agriculture is largely subsistence-based, its reliance on natural pest control by bats may be even greater. Most bat species known from Kenya are insect-eaters; their abundance, roosts, habits, and diets are unknown. So too are their possible roles as reservoirs or vectors of human disease. Diseases like rabies, Marburg and Ebola are known from Kenyan bats - this is a growing concern as Kenya's economic development brings people closer to wildlife.
In August 2011, Kenyan scientist Paul Webala (now a lecturer at Karatina University College, a branch of Moi University), WKU professor Carl Dick, and I began a three-year program to survey the bats of Kenya. This work has three immediate purposes: 1) to document the distribution, status, and ecology of Kenya's rich bat fauna, 2) to give KWS insights into managing an important and economically valuable resource, and 3) to create a vouchered call library for bats in Kenya that will enable KWS and research scientists to remotely monitor bats. In the course of this work, we are expanding Dr. Webala's training in systematics and genetics to enhance his proficiency as a mentor for the next generation of Kenyan scientists. In April and May 2012, Paul and Ruth Keeru -- a technician at National Museums of Kenya -- came to Chicago for advanced training and shortly afterwards, JRS Biodiversity Foundation awarded Paul, me, and Dave Waldien (Bat Conservation International) a $90,000 grant to pursue this project.
Paul and I just finished a key and identification guide to the 145 species of bats known from East Africa (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda). The guide was published in Fieldiana: Life Sciences in Fall 2012.
A nycteribiid bat fly (Penicellidia sp.) on a Hipposideros bat in
Nakuru, Kenya (photo by B. D. Patterson, Aug 2011)
Some videos of our fieldwork
Morse, S.F., K.J. Olival, M. Kosoy, S. Billeter, B.D. Patterson, C.W. Dick & K.Dittmar. 2012. Global distribution and genetic diversity of Bartonella in bat flies (Hippoboscoidea, Streblidae, Nycteribiidae). Infection, Genetics and Evolution 12:1717-1723. pdf (588 kb).
Cover of our Fieldiana: Life and Earth Sciences volume on identifying East African bats
Patterson, B.D., & P.W. Webala. 2012. Keys to the bats (Mammalia: Chiroptera) of East Africa. Fieldiana: Life and Earth Sciences 6:1-63. pdf (6.7 Mb)