Wroughton's Free-tailed Bat, Wroughton's Giant Mastiff Bat
(Otomops wroughtoni)
This free-tailed bat was previously considered to be one of the 15 most critically endangered bat species in the world. It was thought to be endemic to a single cave system in India until its recent discovery in Cambodia and northeast India. These discoveries indicate the species could be distributed much more widely than is known today. However, careful monitoring is needed, as these bats are extremely vulnerable to habitat destruction and roost disturbance.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Monitoring is recommended as a priority, followed by habitat management and public awareness programmes.
India and Cambodia.
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Chiroptera
Family: Molossidae
Wroughton's free-tailed bat belongs to the family Molossidae (free-tailed bats and mastiff bats). This group of 16 genera and 100 species dates back to the late Eocene (38 million years ago) of Europe and North America. It is also known from South America, Africa, Australasia, Asia, and the West Indies. There are seven widely scattered species in the genus Otomops, occurring in central and southern Africa, Madagascar, India, Indonesia and New Guinea. There is some confusion over the relationships between these species because they are so poorly known.
Head and body length: 60-103 mm (average for genus)
Tail length: 30-50 mm (average for genus)
Forearm length: 63-67 mm
Weight: Male: approx. 36 g
Female: approx. 27 g
This species has large forward pointing ears connected to each other by a membrane over the forehead. The face is naked and the nostril pad is large and prominent. The hair is short and velvety. It is a rich dark brown colour on the crown of the head, back and rump. There is a thin white border on each flank, extending from the armpit to the groin, and on the membranes of the forearms. The shoulders and the nape of the neck are a pale greyish white. The ventral surface is a dull brown, but with a contrasting grey collar, which extends onto the chin and upper chest. A small throat sac is present in both sexes. The tail projects far beyond the free edge of the narrow tail membrane, hence the common name “free-tailed bats” for this family.
Very little is known about the ecology of this species. It is thought to be active throughout the year. Its diet is unknown, but probably consists of insects like that of other Molossids. The bats are active at night, and roost upside down in caves during the day. In India they live in small groups of usually five to seven individuals in narrow gaps and deep hollows in the roofs of the cave. Females are thought to have one litter per year, consisting of a single young. Specimens of this species collected in India in December had newborn young, while others were on the verge of delivery.
Members of the family Molossidae roost in caves, hollow trees and human-made structures. Populations of this bat have been found in large natural caves, situated near forested areas.
Until relatively recently, this species was known to occur in only one cave near Karnataka, in the Western Ghats of India. In 2000 it was reported from Cambodia, and in 2001 a specimen was collected from Siju cave in Meghalaya, northeast India, approximately midway between the previous two locality records.
Population Estimate
Population Trend
Classified as Critically Endangered (CR B1+2c) on the 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
This species was considered to be one of the 15 most critically endangered bat species until the two new colonies were discovered. The new discoveries have given researchers cause to hope that the species could be distributed much more widely than is known today. However, the species is extremely vulnerable to habitat destruction and roost disturbance, and the Western Ghats population may be suffering as a result of encroachment from mining, timber and hydroelectric companies.
Conservation Underway
The species is listed on Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, affording it the highest degree of protection. It has recently been proposed to receive the highest level of protection under Cambodian wildlife law. However, these listings will not protect the species from indirect threats resulting from habitat disturbance and human activities.
Conservation Proposed
Monitoring of the bats at all sites from which the species is known is recommended as a priority, followed by habitat management and public awareness programmes. The Bhimgad Forest in the Western Ghats, from which the original population is known, was first proposed as a national reserve more than eight years ago. However, despite repeated efforts by local organisations the area remains unprotected.
Sanctuary Asia
Support this organisation in its campaign to protect the Bhimgad Forest, one of the few known habitats of Wroughton’s free-tailed bat in India.

Bates, P. J. J. and Harrison, D. L. 1997. The Bats of the Indian Subcontinent. Harrison Zoological Museum, Sevenoaks, 258pp.

Chiroptera Specialist Group & CBSG CAMP Workshop, India. 2000. Otomops wroughtoni. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 14 September 2006.

Hutson, A. M., Mickleburgh, S. P. and Racey, P. A. (Compilers). 2001. Microchiropteran Bats: Global Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Chiroptera Specialist Group. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland.

Nowak, R. M. 1999. Walker’s Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

Thabah, A. and Bates, P. J. J. 2002. Recent Record of Otomops Wroughtoni (Thomas, 1913) (Chiroptera: Molossidae) from Meghalaya, North-East India. Acta Zoologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 48(3): 251-253.

Walker, S. and Molur, S. (Compilers). 2002. Summary of the Status of South Asian Chiroptera. Extracted from the CAMP report. Zoo Outreach Organisation, CBSG, South Asia and WILD, Coimbatore, India.

Walston, J. and Bates, P. 2001. The discovery of Wroughton's free-tailed bat Otomops wroughtoni (Chiroptera: Molossidae) in Cambodia. Acta Chiropterologica 3(2): 249-252.

Wilson, D. E., and Reeder, D. M. (eds.). 2005. Mammal Species of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press. Pp 2142. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

if you can provide new information to update this species account or to correct any errors, please email us at info@edgeofexistence.org

Forum comments
  1. File Craft

    you know, I was somehow surprised to read that Wroughton's Free-tailed Bat was considered to be one of the 15 most endangered bat species. usually, only those species in which people are particularly interested are endangered. as for bats, well, most of us are even afraid of them)) besides, I read that not much is known for sure about Wroughton’s free-tailed bat and most facts about it are just believed judging by the behavior of other molossaide bats. maybe it is better this way, the less we know, the better for the bat.

    Posted 7 years ago #

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