Island Army Has Bloody New Mission — Slaughter Fruit Bats
Mauritius troops to gun down 18,000 flying foxes
The tiny army of Mauritius, an island nation in the Indian Ocean 1,200 miles off the African coast, has a cruel and unnecessary new job — shooting thousands of fruit bats classified as “vulnerable” by conservationists.
Bowing to pressure from farmers who insist that the fox-like Mauritius fruit bats disproportionately damage fruit trees, the government of the 787-square-mile island group, population 1.2 million, has approved a 20-percent cull of what it claims are 90,000 fruit bats living on the islands.
Biologists dispute the government’s claim that the fruit bats excessively harm trees — in fact, the bats are pollinators whose waste spreads seeds and helps to keep forests and orchards healthy. Likewise, experts point out that there are probably far fewer than 90,000 fruit bats on Mauritius. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature said that killing 18,000 of the gentle creatures would push the population from “vulnerable” to “endangered” or even “critically endangered.”
Mauritius is notable for once being home to the dodo, a large flightless bird that colonists and the rats they introduced ate to extinction in the 17th century.
The bloody work of slaughtering Mauritius’ bats falls to the island country’s Special Mobile Force — in essence, its army. Technically, Mauritius does not have a military. Instead, 1,500 0f the country’s 10,000 police receive some extra training and form five infantry companies, two armored squadrons and an engineer unit.
These troops essentially never deploy for actual combat. Instead, they’re going to war with defenseless, harmless bats.