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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Flying foxes get the boot from Wat Phnom: official

Flying foxes get the boot from Wat Phnom: official

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The fox bats that surround Wat Phnom every evening may soon be a thing of the past if Phnom Penh officials have their way

VANDY RATTANA

Flying foxes are seen swooping over Wat Phnom – but they may not be there for much longer.

THE Phnom Penh municipality has evicted thousands of flying foxes - or fox bats - from the children's park on the southeast side of Wat Phnom as part of the city's ongoing drive to beautify the city, Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said. 

"We want our children to have a pleasant environment to play in," Kep Chuktema told the Post Sunday, adding that the large volume of bat waste produced by the flying mammals had made the park unsanitary.

Five days ago, the municipality draped kites, scarecrows and bells across the tops of Wat Phnom's lauan, or Chheuo Teal, trees. The decorations had the desired effect: the flying fox population has largely migrated to the northeast corner of Wat Phnom, in the vicinity of the Cambodian Development Council (CDC).

The municipality decided not to cull the flying fox population, but simply to frighten them into leaving the children's park.

"We are concerned that the bats will be trapped for food if they move outside of the capital, but we have no choice [about evicting them from the park at Wat Phnom]," Kep Chuktema added.

But conservation groups have expressed concern that Cambodia's population of the species will be seriously affected by the move.

Damaged habitat

According to Sheng Teak, country director of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), it would have been far better for the municipality to build shelters near Wat Phnom for the flying foxes. This would have encouraged the mammals to nest in designated areas, limiting the impact of the waste they generate in the area.

"If we want to attract tourists to visit Wat Phnom, we should protect the flying foxes," he said.   

Flying foxes are bats of the genus Pteropus and belong to the Megachiroptera sub-order. They are the largest bats in the world and live in the tropics and subtropics of Asia, Australia, Oceania, islands off East Africa and a number of remote oceanic islands in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Many species of the bat are threatened today with extinction, and a number of species have died out as a result of human consumption.

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