Bats: A Misunderstood Friend

Photo taken on Dec. 22, 2011, by Ken Bohn, Copyright San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Photo taken on Dec. 22, 2011, by Ken Bohn, Copyright San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

From sucking blood to getting tangled in your hair, there are many myths surrounding bats.  In reality, bats are remarkable animals that play an important role in the environment.

As the only flying mammal, bats use echolocation to navigate easily both in broad daylight and pitch darkness.  They are natural pollinators, and their guano acts as an effective fertilizer.  Bug-eating bats are the main consumers of mosquitoes and other insects.  During the course of just one night, some bats can eat half their weight in insects.  Other bat species, like the Rodrigues fruit bat (Pteropus rodricensis), eat mainly fruits and flowers, which helps in the dispersing of seeds.  Though most bats subsist on insects and fruit, there are three species of vampire bats that drink blood as their source of food.  However, they normally drink the blood of cattle and other large herbivores, presenting little danger to humans.

“Give bats a place to live in your yard, and they’ll help control pesky mosquitoes,” reads a sign outside the bat exhibit at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  The Rodrigues fruit bat is the most endangered bat in the world, and 13 of them are now featured in the bat exhibit at the Safari Park.  The exhibit will help facilitate the breeding of this critically endangered species while improving the bat’s reputation by educating people about these amazing animals.

The United Nations, with support from the AZA Bat Taxon Advisory Group (TAG), has declared 2012 the year of the bat.  The goal of this species awareness initiative is to inform the public about the integral role bats play in their ecosystems.  To find out what you can do to help save the bat, visit

Elise Waugh

This entry was posted in Conservation, San Diego Zoo Global, Wildlife and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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