The United Nations has declared 2011-2012 as International Year of the Bat and Bat Conservation. Learn here more about bats.
My early memories of bats come from Meenakshi Amman temple at Madurai. As a young girl I would look up to see them perched at every nook and corner on the top ceiling of the entrance gate. I’d hear their flapping wings and would be scared they might swoop down on me. I used to wonder why the place was so smelly.
I grew up, but the fascination remained. I later found that bats, like snakes, have always fascinated people. Westerners, though, saw them as evil, as representing black magic, Devil and Death, and as invoking ghoulish images of a blood-sucking Dracula. Their mystique probably came from being found in dark caves, abandoned buildings, church steeples, and tombs and in being nocturnal animals, active during night.
The eeriness of their appearance is heightened when you see them hanging upside down in clusters.
In Asia, especially in China and Indonesia, bats are revered and considered symbols of good fortune!
In this year of International Year of the Bat and Bat conservation, let us understand the vital ecological role the bats play.
Bats are mammals, the only mammals that actually fly. They live in every continent in the world, except Antarctica. They prefer to live in climates that are warm.
There are well over 900 recognised species of bats. They are divided into two types – the megabats, which mainly eat fruit, and the microbats, which mainly eat insects. Bats can be as large as a small dog or as small as a bee. The largest bats are the flying foxes with wingspans of up to 2 metres and a body weights of up to 1.5 kilograms. At the other end of the spectrum is the bumblebee bat, weighing only 2 grams !
Bats are primary predators of night-flying insects and pests. Because they consume quantities of “bugs” such as mosquitoes, bats are a natural form of insect control and play an important role in keeping ecosystems in balance.. For instance, one little brown bat can catch 600 mosquitoes or more an hour. They are also pollinators of plants.