September 2022

The mammal with the continuous flight

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The mammal with the continuous flight

Solomon Ndlovu
By Solomon Ndlovu
Assistant Head Guide

Bats are the only true mammal that can fly in the whole world! Bats are very interesting animals and have a unique gift that other mammals don’t, and that is the ability to fly. They are classified in their special order of mammals called Chiroptera.

Different cultures all around the world have varied beliefs about bats. In my culture (Shangaan or Tsonga) when a bat comes to your house it is regarded as bad luck. However, these animals are very good for the environment and they often help human beings more than cause trouble for us. They are well known for eating hundreds of mosquitos at night, and that reduces the risk of disease that affects humans. It is good to know that with them reducing the number of mosquitos fewer mosquitos will transmit malaria.

Some bats are able to communicate by sound and by listening to the echo to learn how far the nearest bat or object is.

They live in big groups of more than fifty together. It is always amazing to see them coming out of their roosting spots at sunset and to see a cloud of bats flying. If one of them can eat hundreds of mosquitos at night, a flock will eat more than 500 000 mosquitos that were going to irritate and bite us while sitting around the fire and telling each other stories!

Fruit-eating bats also play an important role in seed germination where they will eat some seeds and fly to defecate somewhere else where the seeds will start germinating.

Because bats are active at night they do not have many predators, and this assists them to be able to live a long life. They have been recorded to live to thirty years old. They can be affected by disease, and that’s one of the biggest threats they have out in the wild. They are able to hide from their predators by hiding inside caves, and in trees.

They have the advantage of having a unique physical ability, which is resting hanging upside down. It looks uncomfortable, but bats are adapted to do this. They have incredibly long claws to grip onto branches of trees or cave walls, and the claws are also used to catch food. When resting they are almost invisible because of the way they hang and camouflage themselves.