CONSIDERING that there are over 200 species of African bats — with the continent being home to 20 percent of the world’s bats its surprising that these animals, the most populous mammals on the planet after rodents, are not a common sight.
So, when a small colony of Peters’s epauletted fruit bats took residence in a gazebo at Jabulani Safari’s lodges the management gave them leave of lodging.
They were a welcome edition to their wide catalogue of game and wildlife viewing. And live decoration for their open plan brick-under-thatch patio.
“When they showed up we thought about it for a while and decided that we would only clear furniture from under their roosting area from being spoiled by their excreta.
“Otherwise we’re more than happy to share this space with all wildlife,” Jabulani Safari’s Admire Tickey said.
The species of bat at this top private game reserve is only found in southern African countries that include Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Their natural habitat is often in riverine or evergreen forest, or moist woodland, where there are lots of fruit-bearing trees like in this safari.
Fruit bats are generally bigger than their insect eating cousins. Neither of them attacks people.
In addition to a difference in size between the two types, there is a great variation in the extent and details of the wings, which are formed by the naked membrane of skin that extends from the neck to the wrist and between the fingers, and finally to the tail.
Wing shapes vary from species to species. Usually, the swift fliers have long, narrow wings while the slow fliers have broad, rounded ones.
The fascinating anatomy of bats does not end there as bones of the hand that support the wing membrane are unusually long. The hind legs are rotated 180 degrees at the hip joint, so the knee flexes backward rather than forward. This arrangement does not hamper the bat when it is perched but rather helps it push off from the roost for a quick getaway.
They are very agile even on land, scuttling quickly over objects and squeezing their bodies through small openings.
Fruit bats feast largely on fruit. They have large cheek pouches, enabling them to take food to be eaten at another perch, away from disturbances. To obtain water, bats munch on soft wood and bark.
They are an important player in the fruit tree regeneration as they assist in both pollination and seed dispersal.
Being nocturnal creatures, these bats allow guests to Jabulani Safari to watch them throughout the day as they dangle upside down from the gazebo’s roof as they would only fly out when day time fades.
Although bats can live in huge colonies numbering over a million members this colony roost is small numbering several dozens.
These fruit bats have exceptionally good night vision and well-developed acute sense of smell. The excellent sense of smell and big eyes help them locate fruit and nectar during their night forages.
This species of bats is in the family of larger bats which are commonly called megabats as compared to their smaller cousins that are considered microbats. There are 170 species of these.
These flying mammals are also referred to as fruit bats, old world fruit bats, or flying foxes, or more specifically as Megachiropteran fruit bats.