RECORD OF COMPOSITE BAT COLONIES IN ROBBERS'CAVE AREA OF MAHABALESHWAR REGION, MAHARASHTRA STATE, INDIAV.S. Korad, M.C.Gaikwad and A.L.Koratkar
The Robbers' cave is located in the evergreen forest of Mahabaleshwar region, the famous tourist spot and hot spot for biodiversity of northern Western Ghats (Maharashtra state of India). The subterranean cave has a perennial water source in form of a stream running over the floor. 'Elle cave is about 100 - 125m deep and has historical background. The interior of the cave is damp and stinky as it harbors large colonies of fruit bats (about 23,000 bats) of species Rousellus leschenaul i and insectivorous microchiropteran bat of species Miniopterus sehreibersii (about 4,200 bats). Nearly 500m away to North of this cave there is another site, again a subterranean, deep but slanting and circular crevice, harboring about 500 and more bats. It is a composite colony of leaf-nosed bat and horse-shoe bat, the co-occurrence of these bats itself is a rarity. Three different species Rhinolophus lepidus, R. rouxil and 1-lipposideros pious are recorded from this site. The survey was performed for assessment of bat fauna in the Central Western Ghats of Maharashtra (2002-2005) funded by Ministry of Environment and Forests. The Robbers' cave is the only place, which is rich in terms of bat species diversity as well as abundance of bat population in the Central Western Ghats of Maharashtra. And hence should be protected by declaring this area as sanctuary for bats, which will be a unique concept for protection of this volant small mammal fauna. According to Wildlife (protection) Act '1972, bats are included in Schedule No. 5 (Vermin). The present survey emphasises inclusion of bat fauna in schedule No. 1, as this fauna is hypersenstive to habitat destruction.
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