UNESWA biologists describe a new bat species, this time in Eswatini!

An image of the the new bat species – Neoromicia hlandzeni.

Sunday, 9th of October, 2022 Eswatini, Africa – A new study recently published in the scientific journal the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, authored by Prof. Peter John Taylor from the Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of the Free State together with colleagues from the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Eswatini (UNESWA): Prof. Ara Monadjem, Mr. Mnqobi Lifa Mamba, and Ms. Siphesihle Magagula and other international collaborators have described a new species of bat. Named Neoromicia hlandzeni  or Lowveld serotine bat, after the  the Lowveld of Eswatini “eHlandzeni“,  this is the first new animal species to be discovered in the country and given a SiSwati name. It is widespread and abundant in savanna habitats in eastern Eswatini, but its distribution also extends into South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

“This is another exciting discovery of a new mammal species from Africa especially since it was discovered in our country’’ says Prof.  Monadjem, one of the collaborators in the study. “Thanks to advances in molecular biology, we are able to recognize new species that are often difficult to distinguish based on their appearance alone.” The molecular aspects of the work were conducted by Prof. Desire Dalton, formerly from the South African National Biodiversity Institution in Pretoria, who is also a Research Associate at UNESWA.

Bats provide important ecosystem services, such as pollination, seed dispersal, and pest control. Bats are also a highly diverse group that are frequently facing conservation challenges. Almost a quarter of all mammals are bats, currently numbering 1456 species worldwide, of which 33 have been recorded from Eswatini. This new species was first collected in Eswatini by Prof. Monadjem on 5th September 2005 in Mlawula Nature Reserve, at the Siweni railway siding near the border with Mozambique.  Additional specimens have been collected by Prof. Monadjem and colleagues since then from numerous other localities in the Lowveld. The holotype (specimen on which the description of the species is based) is housed at the Durban Natural Science Museum, South Africa, however, an important collection of additional specimens are housed at the Eswatini National Museum of Natural History (ENMNH), in the Department of Biological Sciences, at the Kwaluseni Campus of UNESWA.     

“This study highlights the importance of continuing with baseline biodiversity surveys in Africa”, says Prof. Monadjem. “Africa still remains the least studied continent with respect to bats and other small mammals, and new species will continue to be described over the next decade at least.” Prof. Monadjem continues working on surveying remote locations across the African continent and has discovered about 20 new species of bats and rodents.

If you would like more information about this topic or would like to schedule an interview with those involved in the project, please call 25170000 or email ara@uniswa.sz

The scientists from the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Eswatini: Prof. Ara Monadjem, Mr. Mnqobi Lifa Mamba, and Ms. Siphesihle Magagula