If you thought that you have to travel hundreds of kilometres to see the largest bat on mainland India, think again. In fact, it is found in Bangalore itself. The wingspan of this bat – the Indian Fruit Bat (also known as the Flying Fox) – measures a whopping 4 feet!
Indian Fruit Bats are social animals and in the habit of roosting in large colonies. A single roosting site may have a hundred or more individuals. If the site is particularly suitable, they may even exceed a thousand individuals. These bats often roost on large trees which have spreading branches and at some places, they choose bamboo clusters.
Trees in the heart of busy areas in cities and villages may also be used. In fact, there are some such roosts in Bangalore. There is also a large colony in the Ranganthittoo Bird Sanctuary near Mysore. Similar roosts can be seen at several places across Karnataka and many towns and cities in India.
The Flying Fox has a dark brown body and black wings. Males have a light yellow colour on the back of the neck and shoulders. They move among the branches with the help of their claws.
The diet of these bats comprises of fruits and nectar. In search of food, they fly long distances. These bats are known to have a good memory of fruiting time and location of trees. Soon after sunset, one can see all the bats of a colony flying away in droves in search of fruiting trees.
Several myths surround bats. A little effort on our part to understand bats would only fill us with plenty of appreciation for the services rendered by these nocturnal creatures, and leave us spellbound. In fact, many of the fruit bats are the main pollination agents for some species of trees, while they help in seed dispersal of several others. These bats are nature's gardeners. In short, they are ecologically very important.
In fact, the Kabini River Lodge at Kharapur has a colony of its own. There is also a colony near the River Tern Lodge, Bhadra. The next time you visit Kabini or Bhadra, make it a point to pay a visit to the bat colony. Spend some time watching them as they spend the day hanging upside down, indulging in their daily toilet, squabbling, or simply wrapping their body with their wings and sleeping. You will not be disappointed!
These two colonies are doing well. But, not all trees used by these bats are safe as they are falling prey to ‘developmental activities'. This is not only endangering the survival of these interesting animals, but also making the environment poorer in their absence.