of the Western Cape
Eygptian Fruit Bat Rousettus aegyptiacus
Bats belong to the order of mammals called Chiroptera, which means "hand-wing". There are more than 900 species of bats around the world, of which 53 are found in South Africa. Of these, at least 12 are found in the Western Cape.
Long associated with witches and vampires, many species of bats are now threatened with extinction, mainly because of people's negative attitudes towards bats.
Bats are protected by law.
There are two groups of bats, both of which play extremely important roles in many ecosystems:
Insect-eating bats are nature's pesticides.
Fruit bats pollinate many plants.
1. INSECT-EATING or MICRO-BATS:
They are smaller than fruit bats.
They have tiny eyes and rely mainly on echolocation or sonar to navigate and to find their prey.
They are extremely effective at pest-control and are therefore very useful to crop farmers.
Most microbats feed on insects, but some eat frogs, fish or small rodents.
Some bats, such as the Egyptian slit-faced bat have such excellent hearing that they can hear the wing-beats of the insects on which they feed, and use this to home in on their prey!
Insect-eating bats help to control mosquitoes and therefore malaria.
DID YOU KNOW?
Insect bats should be welcome guests in your garden - a colony of 300 000 long-fingered bats in the De Hoop Nature Reserve consumes an estimated 100 tonnes of insects per year!
2. FRUIT-EATING OR MEGA-BATS:
They are larger than the microbats and have big eyes and long, doglike muzzles (hence their common name "flying foxes").
Most fruit bats do not echolocate, but use their excellent senses of sight and smell to find the nectar & fruit on which they feed.
More than 300 plants and 400 economically important products require fruit bats for pollination and/or seed dispersal, e.g. the baobab tree, mangoes, paw paws, guavas, bananas, figs and the tequila cactus!
DID YOU KNOW?
Fruit bats are essential for regeneration of forests. Without bats to disperse seeds, disturbed forest cannot recover!
Which bats occur in the Western Cape?
At least 12 bat species occur in the Western Cape. Some of the more common ones are:
Cape Serotine Bat
Egyptian Free-tailed Bat
Egyptian Fruit Bat
Egyptian Slit-Faced Bat
Schreiber’s Long-Fingered Bat (Miniopterus schreibersii)
Geoffroy’s horseshoe Bat
Cape horseshoe Bat
True or False?
bats are blind
FALSE: All bats have eyes, and no bats are blind. Fruit bats need excellent sight to fly at night and to find the fruit on which they feed.
bats are dirty and spread disease
FALSE: Bats are very clean – they groom themselves after every meal. They are less likely than most animals to spread disease.
all bats drink blood
FALSE: Only the Vampire Bats found in South America feed on blood.
bats get tangled in your hair
FALSE: Bats are excellent navigators and fliers. Their echolocation or sonar is so accurate that they are unlikely even to touch you as they fly past, let alone get tangled in your hair.
bats are dangerous & a nuisance to farmers
FALSE: Bats are harmless to people, and useful to farmers. Insect bats are the most important predators of nocturnal insect pests. Fruit bats consume over-ripe fruits left after harvesting, preventing them from rotting & harbouring fruit fly maggots. And, bat droppings (guano) make excellent fertiliser!
bats are essential to a healthy ecosystem
TRUE: A healthy bat community indicates a healthy planet!
Human encroachment has destroyed many natural bat roosting sites. However, some species e.g. the Egyptian free-tailed bat and the Cape serotine bat have adapted by roosting in human structures (e.g. roofs, bridges, old wells, disused mines).
Bats pose no serious health risks to people.
©This page is produced by the Cape Bat Action Team (Cape Bat)
Dr David Jacobs: (021) 650-4011
Links to Bat Web sites