The Giant golden-crowned flying fox is native and endemic exclusively to the Philippines. Otherwise called the Golden-capped Fruit Bat, this animal is the largest and one of the rarest bats around the globe, currently classified as Endangered. Moreover, this animal is threatened with extinction as a result of continuous poaching and destruction of its forest habitat. These massive, giant bats belong to the group of megabats. There is very little information on the life expectancy of this species, although captive individuals are known to live as long as 23 years, while those in the wild are believed to live less - up to 15 years.
These bats are found in the Philippines, the Palawan region as well as the Batanes and Babuyan island groups. The preferred habitat of these animals is large, primary, or mature secondary forest. They prefer areas uninhabited by humans. They also use river corridors called riparian zones because the fig trees located near rivers are the bats' main source of food.
The Giant golden-crowned flying fox is generally a nocturnal creature, foraging at night. This animal can fly a huge distance of up to 40 km per night when looking for food. During the season when fruits are available, these animals often gather in large colonies of up to 150,000 individuals, typically in areas with an abundance of fruits. Living in these large aggregations, individuals can warm up and escape predators. They not only form colonies of conspecifics but also occur in mixed concentrations with the Malayan flying foxes. The Giant golden-crowned flying foxes rest in the characteristic upside-down position. The well-developed eyesight helps them navigate the environment as well as detect food, as opposed to other bats, which mainly rely on echolocation.
The Giant golden-crowned flying foxes typically occur in isolated populations and thus the reproductive system and behavior of this species are poorly known. However, it is known that other flying fox species exhibit a polygynous mating system, in which males mate with many females during a breeding season. These bats are thought to have two breeding seasons per year, but each female produces offspring only once a year. Neither the exact time of breeding season nor duration of pregnancy are known. Females generally give birth in April-June, yielding a single baby, which clings to the fur of its mother with its claws. The mother will care for her pup, lactating as well as fanning with her wing to keep the baby cool. Female bats are ready to produce offspring of their own at 2 years old.
One of the biggest threats to the population of these bats is the loss of their natural habitat, associated with logging and farming projects. This factor is compounded by their dependence on fig-trees, which grow exclusively in old-growth forests. The Golden-crowned flying foxes suffer from hunting for food and animal trade. Currently, there are 3 large roost sites, where these bats are protected from hunting. However, when going beyond these roosts to find food, they often become victims of hunters.
According to the IUCN Red List, the rough estimate of the total Giant golden-crowned flying foxes’ population is around 10,000 individuals (and probably no more than 20,000 individuals). Currently, this species is classified as Endangered (EN) and its numbers continue to decrease.
Due to their frugivorous diet, these animals act as important seed dispersers of some fruiting plants, which they do through their faces. This also makes them key pollinators of their range, benefiting the ecosystem of their habitat.