About Rodrigues Fruit Bats
These bats are covered with a thick brownish-black fur. The fur on its head, neck and shoulders is golden. They have a wingspan of about 3 feet and do not have a tail. They are between 5-7 inches long and weigh less than one pound. They are one of the 60 largest bats in the world which are referred to as flying foxes. They get their nickname from their dog-like faces with large eyes and large, widely spread ears. They have a good sense of smell and a large thumb for crawling. Males are usually larger, but otherwise it is difficult to differentiate between the sexes.
These bats are crepuscular, meaning they are active at sunset and sunrise. They are social animals, living in colonies. Females roost in groups and males roost by themselves. There has been a dominance hierarchy observed between males and they will mark their territory by rubbing their heads, necks and shoulders on branches.
Bats are divided into two suborders. There are the “megabats” or megachiroptera, which are herbivorous or specifically frugivorous. Some are called “flying foxes.” Rodriquez fruit bats are in this category. The second group is “microbats” or microchiroptera. This group varies in what they eat. They can be herbivores, carnivores, frugivores and some feed exclusively on blood. There are many differences between these two groups. Microbats have complex and sometimes large external ears, while megabats have simple external ears. Microbats can use echolocation to search for food, while megabats cannot. Megabats use their eyesight and sense of smell for finding their food.
Rodrigues Fruit Bats in the Wild
Found only on the island of Rodriguez (part of Mauritius) off the east coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.
They find their food by sight and smell. They eat ripe fruit such as bananas, papaya, figs, guavas and mangoes and fresh flowers. They will hold their food with their claws while they eat. They crush the fruit in their mouths by pressing their tongues against its hard, ridged upper palate. They swallow the juice and soft pulp. Then they spit out the hard pulp, seeds and skin often in a pellet. By spitting out the seeds they help to re-plant the rainforest by dispersing the seeds of many plants.
As of 2008, they were listed as a “critically endangered” by IUCN. There are an estimated 5,000 individuals left in the wild. Major threats to their survival include deforestation, which leaves them without homes; as well as strong island storms, which destroy large trees which protect them, leaving them subjected to harsh weather. These storms also strip fruit from the trees leaving them with limited availability of food.
There are several breeding programs in zoos around the world. They are a part of the AZA Species Survival Plan (SSP) and there are about 350 individuals in zoos worldwide.
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