Setting record straight and fighting fear with facts
MENTION the word bat and people conjure up all sorts of scary tales about frightening creatures that suck your blood. A group called the Bat Conservation Group are dedicated to stamping out these myths (untrue stories) and educating people about the importance on the survival of bats in South Africa as they play a vital role in the ecosystem.
Here are some facts to help you understand bats better: South Africa boasts some seven fruiteating bat species as well as 65 insectivorous bat species.
Depending on the type of bat, they eat fruit, nectar, insects, fish, frogs and small mammals like mice.
Before we consider some facts about bats let us allay some of the fears about bats with the truth.
Although bats make use of sonar ( sound waves) during flight, they are not blind.
They are also not interested in getting tangled in your hair as they are effective at avoiding objects while in flight.
They do not attack people and infrequently carry diseases such as rabies.
Interestingly, they benefit mankind by eating insects and pollinating plants, making them a farmer’s friend.
Research shows that a bat colony at De Hoop Caves with 300 000 bats eats some 100 tons of insects a year.
Bats are not related to mice and rats. They are not rodents. They belong to the order of Chiroptera, which means handwinged. They are the only mammals capable of true flight.
They hibernate during winter. If there is a food shortage due to weather changes, bats can shut down their metabolism and sleep until better times.
Bats have fur. The amount varies, depending on the species and climatic conditions. One species is furless, and another has pink wings and ears.
Like humans, bats give birth to poorly developed young, usually one pup a year, and nurse them. Mother bats have been known to adopt each other’s young.
Echolocation is unique to bats and some species of dolphins and whales. It is similar to common sonar, in which a sound is emitted by the bat and bounces off insects or objects and returns to the bat’s ears. Echolocation enables bats to catch insects in flight.
Most fruit eating bats do not echo locate. They find their food by sight and smell.
Of the world’s 1 000 species, only three are vampire bats, these are found in Central and South America. Vampire bats do not attack humans. They are small and they feed off animals and poultry. They do not actually suck blood, but rather they make a small incision with razor sharp teeth and then lap up the blood.
FEEDING TIME: Depending on the type of bat, they eat fruit, nectar, insects, frongs and fish.