Call edition 2012
A new edition of the Prize of the Belgian Development Cooperation has been launched. This call is open until March 31st, 2011. You can read in the regulations whether you comply with the criteria for participation.
The work of Luis Aguirre is extremely interesting as it concerns the class of mammals which, although being the most diverse (after the rodents), remains the least well known because these mammals are so difficult to study. One of the things Aguirre’s studies demonstrate is that the actions taken by the farmers in South America to drive out the vampire bat – a carrier of rabies – are futile and even counter-productive. Indeed the populations of these tiny animals, which weigh just a few grams, have multiplied as cattle breeding has developed, causing terrible losses among the herds and putting the farmers in a very precarious position. The farmers therefore feel they have no alternative but to burn all the bat roosts they find. As Luis Aguirre’s work shows, unfortunately, by destroying these hollow trees the farmers are endangering other species of bats that are important to the reproduction of certain plants, the regeneration of the primary tropical forest and insect regulation. In some areas in fact, up to 30% of plants are dependent on the bats for pollinization and for dispersing their seeds. Furthermore, the vampire bat is said to be a more competitive and aggressive species, and would therefore take possession of the available roosts at the expense of the other species that are necessary to maintain the ecosystem.
Through his studies and through the association he has set up, Luis Aguirre has been able for a number of years to combat the prejudices of the Bolivian farmers and inform them about the vital importance of bats to their environment. As such he contributes to the preservation of these animals and their biological heritage. Today Luis Aguirre is able to offer these farmers cheaper and more effective alternatives to control the vampire bat populations. These kinds of initiatives need to be encouraged, because they are very rare in South America, Africa and Asia and even here at home, unfortunately.
Report written by Mrs G. Kapfer, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium