Dispelling myths around Wahlberg’s epauletted fruit bat

THE Wahlberg’s epauletted fruit bat is a common resident of the Durban South area.

I enjoy watching them fly through my garden at night, especially when the mango tree is bearing some ripened fruit.

There is also a small group I photograph near the Coedmore Castle within Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve.

They can occur in groups of between three to 100 individuals, they roost in the daytime in a variety of habitats from open trees to under eves, and their roosting pattern may follow the ripening of fruit trees. Their favourite food plants are the fig trees, such as the strangler fig, as well as the Strelitzia Nicolai plants. They are known to fly up to four kilometres in search of food in one night.

These are the largest of the bat species to live in the area, with a wingspan of up to 60cm and a weight of around 100 grams.

Many people fear bats because of old wives’ tails which have been passed on from one generation to another but the fact is that most of this is simply not true. For example have you heard of the saying ‘You are as blind as a bat?’. That is simply untrue, all bats have a certain degree of eyesight. In fact these fruit bats are able to see pretty well.

People also mistakenly believe bats carry rabies. This too is untrue, as less than 1% of all the bats in the world carry the disease. Other fallacies indicate that bats attack people and get tangled in your hair. This is also untrue as bats are terrified of humans and will avoid us at all cost.

Warren K. Dick

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