Fruit bats or flying fox
Types of bats in the Maldives
Fruit bats or flying foxes often seem to catch peoples eye here in the Maldives. They are often seen around dusk swooping down from the tree tops to sip water from the pool. There are two types of bats found here. One is the greater Indian fruit bat also known as the Indian flying fox. It is one of the biggest bat species in the world with a wing span up to 1.5 meters. The second is one is the small flying fox, a sub species who’s wingspan is slightly smaller.
A bats vision
I always thought all bats use echolocation but there is actually only one subspecies that is able to do so. With their big eyes they have superb vision and together with their sense of smell they can locate food. Talking about eating, fruit bats have a very long tongue which they can unroll when they are feeding. The tongue is that long that it doesn’t fit into the bats mouth, it has to roll it back and tuck it all the way away around its rib cage.
The upside down world of bats
When you look up into the palm trees you will always see fruit bats or flying foxes rest in an upside down position. This is necessary for bats to be able to take off easily. Their wings don’t create enough lift to launch otherwise. Also while flying their head hangs down and their feet are pointing up. They just believe that this is the way the world is, so they have no problem with looking at everything upside down or eating. I just hope they don’t have ‘accidents’ when having a pee.
Why bats are essential
To most locals bats are seen as a pest, as they like to eat fresh fruit, nuts and seeds. This has led to the decline in numbers of the small flying fox due to big culling events. However, these bats are extremely important for seed dispersal and pollination, especially in he Maldives. With the 1200 islands of the Maldives being reasonably isolated from each other, the bats are able to fly between them spreading seeds through their droppings helping with the dispersal of plants for the islands.
Bats and their babies
These bats usually have one or two offspring a year, and mothers are seen with their young attached to their front even while flying and sleeping. The baby bats learn to fly on their own when they are around 11 weeks old. An adult can fly up to 150 km in search of food, so we don’t need to worry when we see them flying over the open ocean they will make it land eventually.
If you want to learn more about the wild life in the Maldives have a look at The Maldives Expert.