Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Critically Endangered as Pteropus melanotus natalis
Listing and Conservation Advices NON-CURRENT Commonwealth Listing Advice on Pteropus melanotus natalis (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008aex) [Listing Advice].
Commonwealth Conservation Advice for Pteropus melanotus natalis (Christmas Island Flying-fox) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2014d) [Conservation Advice].
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, the Threatened Species Scientific Committee recommended that there should be a recovery plan for this species as stopping decline and supporting recovery will involve a complex set of recovery actions requiring a high level of planning and coordination (6/3/2013).
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat Abatement Plan for Reduction in Impacts of Tramp Ants on Biodiversity in Australia and its Territories (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006p) [Threat Abatement Plan].
Information Sheets Final Report of the Christmas Island Expert Working Group to the Minister for the Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010a) [Information Sheet].
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (148) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2014) [Legislative Instrument] as Pteropus melanotus natalis.
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Vulnerable (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
Scientific name Pteropus melanotus natalis [64801]
Family Pteropodidae:Chiroptera:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author  
Infraspecies author Thomas, 1887
Other names Pteropus natalis [87611]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

The species Pteropus melanotus is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Redlist, with the caveat that: “if the Christmas Island population was found to be distinct, it would classify as Critically Endangered’ (Hutson et al. 2008).

Scientific name: Pteropus melanotus natalis

Common name: Christmas Island Flying-fox

The Christmas Island Flying-fox (CIFF) is generally accepted as a subspecies of the Black-eared Flying-fox (Pteropus melanotus) (TSSC 2014d). The Black-eared Flying-fox occurs in India (Andaman Islands and Nicobar Islands) and Indonesia (Sumatra) and is absent from the mainland of Australia (Hutson et al. 2008). Some authors (i.e. James et al. 2007) treat the CIFF as a distinct species (Pteropus natalis), rather than a subspecies.

The CIFF is small, compared to most Australian Pteropus species, weighing between 250-500 g (mean 350 g) when fully grown (Churchill 1998; TSSC 2014d). The subspecies is described as having uniformly long, black fur, giving a ‘chubby’ appearance. A faint reddish collar of fur exists on some individuals (Tidemann & Richards 2008).

The CIFF is endemic to Christmas Island, a 135 km2 landmass located in the Indian Ocean, 2000 km to the north-west of the Australian continent and 360 km south of Java (TSSC 2014d). The CIFF is a mobile subspecies and its distribution extends across the entirety of the island (TSSC 2014d).

The CIFF is mobile and occurs as a single, interbreeding population. In 2012, reports on the total abundance of this population ranged between 800-1340 individuals (James pers. comm. 2012 and Woinarski pers. comm. 2012 cited in TSSC 2014d). The population trend in the preceding years to that point was negative (a decline) (TSSC 2014d).

Similarly to other Pteropus species, the CIFF congregates in camps for the purposes of roosting, mating and birthing and weaning pups (TSSC 2014d). Most camps are located near the coast and it has been noted that birthing and weaning occurs in a limited number of camps (three camps with breeding activity as of 2012) (TSSC 2014d).

Christmas Island has a tropical equatorial climate, with distinct wet and dry seasons and year-round high level of humidity (TSSC 2014d). The native vegetation community present on the island is largely mesophyll rainforest, although cleared areas, rehabilitated mine sites and exotic gardens also occur. Foraging habitat of the CIFF includes native rainforest, planted gardens and rehabilitated mine sites containing trees and shrubs (TSSC 2014d). Foraging microhabitat varies throughout the year, due to seasonality of flowering and fruiting of targeted plant species (TSSC 2014d).

The CIFF is similar to other Pteropus species, exhibiting a ‘slow’ life history, characterised by low reproductive output and long lifespan (TSSC 2014d). Mating is polygamous or promiscuous and occurs approximately between July to September. (TSSC 2014d). Following mating, the gestation period is approximately five months (Tidemann 1985).

Females give birth to a maximum of one pup per year, with births occurring in a defined annual season (generally between December and February) (TSSC 2014d). Tidemann (1985) found that female CIFFs could fall pregnant when they were just 6 months of age. It has been noted for other Pteropus species that successful rearing of young generally does not occur unless the mother is three years of age or older (Martin & McIlwee 2002). There may be a similar mechanism operating for the CIFF, which may be reflected in the age categories used by Hall and colleagues (2011), who classified any individual older than 3 years as an ‘adult’.

The CIFF is considered to have a generation length in the wild of approximately nine years (TSSC 2014d).

Ecosystem services

Flying-foxes are widely regarded as important pollinators and seed dispersers and the CIFF is likely to play a similar role (TSSC 2014d). This may be even more pronounced on islands, where there are few other species that perform a similar ecological role; on Christmas Island, the only other vertebrate frugivore is the Christmas Island Imperial Pigeon (Ducula whartoni) (TSSC 2014d). For this reason, the CIFF is considered a ‘keystone (sub)species’ of the Christmas Island terrestrial ecosystem (DEWHA 2010a).

The CIFF feeds on a variety of plant species and plant parts, including fruits, nectar, pollen, flowers and leaves (TSSC 2014d). Dietary patterns are known to change between different times of the year, due to the timing of flowering and fruiting of different plant species. Fruit availability is considered to be greatest during the wet season (December to March) (TSSC 2014d).

James and colleagues (2007) tallied a total of 35 food plants consumed, including 18 species introduced to Christmas Island. Some important species are tabulated below (James et al. 2007):

Scientific Name Common Name Plant Part Consumed
Annona muricate Soursop Fruit
Annona reticulata Custard Apple Fruit
Barringtonia racemosa Powder-puff Tree Flowers
Celtis timorensis Stinkwood Fruit
Dysoxylum gaudichaudianum Ivory Mahogany Flowers
Ficus macrocarpa Fig Fruit
Inocarpus fagifer Tahitian Chestnut Fruit
Macaranga tanarius Nasturtium Tree Flowers
Maclura cochinchinensis Cockspur Thorn Fruit
Planchonella nitida NA Fruit and Flowers
Syzygium nervosum Daly River Saltinash Fruit and Flowers
Terminalia catappa Indian Almond Fruit and Flowers
Tristiropsis acutangula Fern Leaved Tamarind Fruit and Flowers
Muntingia calabura Jamaican Cherry Fruit
Cocos nucifera Coconut Palm Flowers
Mangifera spp. Mango Fruit

The normal fly-out distance between an individual’s camp and foraging habitat has not been quantified; however, it has been noted that individuals are likely to move across the entirety of the island via daily, seasonal or annual movements (TSSC 2014d). The subspecies travels between camps and forages during the day as well as at night.

Phosphate mining and extractive industry

Approximately 25% of forest cover has been lost since the 1890’s due to mining (TSSC 2014d). Rehabilitated mining land is known to be of a lower quality than undisturbed vegetation (TSSC 2014d). In addition to the removal of foraging and roosting habitat, phosphate mining is known to cause potentially lethal pollution (i.e. cadmium), which can be lethal to flying-foxes if ingested in sufficient quantities. At least one camp is known to have been abandoned due to the impacts of phosphate dust pollution (James et al. 2007).


Introduced Cats (Felis catus) occur on Christmas Island and are thought to number around 1000 individuals (TSSC 2014d). The CIFF has been found in the gut contents of Cats and predation pressure from Cats is potentially a very significant source of mortality for the CIFF (Tidemann et al. 1994; TSSC 2014d).

Yellow Crazy Ant

The introduced and invasive Yellow Crazy Ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) has significant and wide-ranging impacts on the rainforest ecosystem present on Christmas Island (TSSC 2014d). The CIFF may be directly impacted by this species or indirectly impacted, due to declining tree health.

Removal of preferred food sources

The diet of the CIFF is known to be made up of approximately 50% introduced species (James et al. 2007). The overall effect of this shift in diet is not known, however, similar shifts for other species of flying-fox have resulted in nutritional decline (Nelson et al. 2000).

Natural events

Cyclones and other intense natural events are known to potentially have catastrophic effects on populations of island species and such impacts have been documented for other flying-fox species (Pierson et al. 1996; McConkey et al. 2004; Shilton et al. 2008; TSSC 2014d).

Transmission of novel diseases to the CIFF population is also identified as a threat in the subspecies’ Conservation Advice (TSSC 2014d).

A Christmas Island recovery plan is being developed by the Australian Government and is expected to include recovery actions relevant to the CIFF. The Conservation Advice for the CIFF also includes research and priority actions to assist in stopping the decline of the subspecies and promote recovery (TSSC 2014d). Some of these actions include:

  • Continue to ground bait and aerial bait Yellow Crazy Ant colonies to prevent the formation of super colonies;
  • Control and reduce the impact, in order of priority, of feral Cats, feral Rats (Rattus rattus) and wolf-snakes (Lycodon capucinus);
  • Monitor known populations and identify key threats;
  • Monitor the progress of recovery, including the effectiveness of management actions and the need to adapt them if necessary;
  • Rehabilitate former mining areas;
  • Investigate the potential threat and risks of chemicals and toxins, particularly cadmium;
  • Investigate pathogens potentially threatening the subspecies, including Cat-transmitted pathogens.

Documents relevant to the management of the CIFF can be found in the Conservation Advice and at the start of the profile.

No threats data available.

Churchill, S.K. (1998). Australian Bats. Sydney: Reed New Holland.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2010a). Final Report of the Christmas Island Expert Working Group to the Minister for the Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts. [Online]. Canberra: DEWHA. Available from:

Hall, J., K. Rose, D. Spratt, P. Harlow, S. Donahoe, P. Andrew, H. Field, C. DeJong, C. Smith, A. Hyatt & J.Watson (2011). Assessment of reptile and mammal disease prevalence on Christmas Island. Australian Registry of Wildlife Health, Taronga Conservation Society Australia, Sydney. Report to Parks Australia.

Hutson, A., T. Kingston, D. James, L. Lumsden, S. Molur & C. Srinivasulu (2008). Pteropus melanotus. IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. (accessed 24 January 2014). [Online].

James D., G. Dale, K. Retallick & K. Orchard (2007). Christmas Island Biodiversity Monitoring Programme: Christmas Island Flying-Fox Pteropus natalis. An assessment of conservation status and threats. Report to Department of Finance and Deregulation and Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

Martin, L. & A. McIlwee (2002). The reproductive biology and intrinsic capacity for increase of the grey-headed flying-fox Pteropus poliocephalus (Megachiroptera), and the implications of culling. In: P. Eby and D. Lunney, eds. Managing the grey-headed flying-fox as a threatened species in New South Wales. Page(s) 91-108.

McConkey, K., D. Drake, J. Franklin & F. Tonga (2004). Effects of Cyclone Waka on flying foxes (Pteropus tonganus) in the Vava'u Islands of Tonga. Journal of Tropical Ecology . 20 (5):551-561.

Nelson, S., M. Miller, E. Heske & G. Fahey (2000). Nutritional consequences of a change in diet from native to agricultural fruits for the Samoan fruit bat. Ecography. 23:393-401.

Pierson, E.D., T. Elmqvist, W. E. Rainey & P. A. Cox (1996). Effects of Tropical Cyclonic Storms on Flying Fox Populations on the South Pacific Islands of Samoa. Conservation Biology. 10(2): 438-451.

Shilton, L., P. Latch, A. McKeown, P. Birt & D. Westcott (2008). Landscape scale redistribution of a highly mobile threatened species, Pteropus conspicillatus (Chiroptera, Pteropodidae), in response to tropical cyclone Larry. Austral Ecology. 33:549-561.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2008aex). NON-CURRENT Commonwealth Listing Advice on Pteropus melanotus natalis. [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from:

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2014d). Commonwealth Conservation Advice for Pteropus melanotus natalis (Christmas Island Flying-fox). [Online]. Canberra: Department of the Environment. Available from:

Tidemann, C. (1985). A study of the status, habitat requirements and management of the two species of bats on Christmas Island (Indian Ocean). Canberra: Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Tidemann, C. & G. Richards (2008). Christmas Island flying-fox Pteropus melanotus. In: S. Van Dyck and R. Strahan, eds. The mammals of Australia (Third edition). Page(s) 442-443. Reed New Holland, Sydney.

Tidemann, C.R, H.D Yorkston & A.J Russack (1994). The diet of cats Felis catus on Christmas Island, Indian Ocean. Wildlife Research. 21:279-286.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Pteropus melanotus natalis in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Tue, 23 Sep 2014 09:10:14 +1000.