BAT CONSERVATION CAMPAIGN IN INDIA
It is well known that some bat species forage in urban gardens and parks, and are able to exploit opportunities created by man-made structures, such as using buildings as roost sites, little is known about the ecology of bats in urban environments. Whilst some studies have shown a general avoidance of urban areas by bats, others have suggested that urban environments may have a positive role to play in resource availability for some bat species, particularly in landscapes dominated by intensive agricultural land use.
Why do bats need our helping hand?
The places bats roost and the places they find insects, such as trees and woodlands, have been destroyed to make way for buildings and roads.
The use of pesticides has meant there are less insects around for bats to feed on. These chemicals can also harm bats themselves.
Many people are not aware that bats need our help, and are sometimes scared of them because of how bats are presented in films and on television. This makes it harder for bats to get the help they need.
Best of all, is the knowledge that you are helping to save bats and create a safer future for these fascinating and fragile creatures.
Why bats are importantBats play an important role in many environments around the world. Some plants depend partly or wholly on bats to pollinate their flowers or spread their seeds, while other bats also help control pests by eating insects. Some bats are ‘indicator species’, because changes to these bat populations can indicate changes in aspects of biodiversity. Bats might suffer when there are problems with insect populations (because our bats feed on insects) or when habitats are destroyed or poorly managed (for example, some bats only live in large woodlands).
Bats as pollinatorsMany people are unaware that over 500 plant species rely on bats to pollinate their flowers, including species of mango, banana, cocoa, durian, guava and agave (used to make tequila). So, next time you eat some chocolate, say thanks to the bats! The pollination of plants by bats is called chiropterophily.
Plants pollinated by bats often have pale nocturnal flowers (in contrast, bees are mostly attracted to bright, daytime flowers). These flowers are often large and bell shaped, and some bats have evolved specifically to reach the nectar at the bottom of them. The tube-lipped nectar bat and the banana bat that lives around river bank both have extraordinarily long tongues for this exact reason. The tube-lipped nectar bat’s tongue is more than one and a half times the length of its body!
Bats as pest controllers
While some people think bats are pests, some bats are actually pest controllers eating thousands of insects every night. Indian bats won’t bite you or suck your blood – but they will help clear the air of bloodsucking mosquitoes!
All bats in the India are insectivores – they only eat insects. Insect-eating bats are great for keeping bugs away from crops, as well as the places where the bats roost. The free-tailed bat has been recognised as an important “pest management service” in cotton farming. Because bats eat so many insects in some regions, they can also reduce the need for pesticide sprays.
While bats can provide a valuable service for agriculture, some agricultural practices can have a detrimental impact on bats. Increased use of pesticides may mean that bats go hungry from the lack of insect prey. The destruction of hedgerows and woods in farmland is also concerning, as bats rely on these features for roosting, hunting and getting around.
While these plants rely on bats to pollinate their flowers, bats also rely on the fruit and flowers of these plants to survive. Disturbing this intricate system can have severe consequences.
Bats as seed dispersers and reforestersLike birds, some bats play a critical role in spreading the seeds of trees and other plants. Some tropical fruit bats carry seeds inside them as they digest the fruit, then excrete the seeds far away from the original tree. These seeds drop to the ground in their own ready-made fertiliser, which helps them germinate and grow. Because bats help pollinate and disperse seeds, they can even play an important part in helping regrowth after forest clearance.
Even small bats can have an important part to play in seed dispersal, as recent research on neotropical bats in Central and South American forests suggests. These forests have been cleared and fragmented, while hunting and habitat loss has wiped out some populations of large bodied animals like deer and macaws. It had been thought that without these animals, many large-seeded plants would have no way of dispersing their seeds. However, researchers looked at seed dispersal both at random through the forest and underneath the tents of tentmaker bats. These studies have shown that the number of large seeds under the tents is higher than would occur at random, so tentmaker bats might be playing a crucial role in the dispersal of up to 44-65 large seeded plant species throughout the forest.
Bat boxes are artificial roosts designed to encourage bats into areas where there are few roosting sites.
|Bat nest box, inside view, see compartments and entrance|
|Bat nest box, front view|
read out more at BAT CONSERVATION AND RESEARCH