05 July 2010

Bats in Singapore: one new record and two rediscovered

Unseen and unappreciated, we know very little about these secretive and fascinating mammals.
Common Fruit Bat feeding on nectar of Golden Penda flower.
But thanks to a two-year survey by NParks and volunteers, led by the intrepid Dr Leong Tzi Ming, we now know more about our bats!

"Going batty over new findings" by Victoria Vaughan Straits Times 5 Jul 10, reveals that the team discovered, in central Singapore, under a flyover, a colony of more than 1,000 cave nectar bats!

The latest study has raised the number of bat species in Singapore from 17 to at least 26.

The new record is the Hardwicke's woolly bat (Kerivoula hardwickei). It is among our smallest bats, with a wingspan of just 10cm, and weighs up to only 6g. Between July 2008 and February last year, nine of the bats, of both genders, were caught in Upper Seletar and Upper Peirce reservoir areas. Here's an IUCN factsheet about the bat.
Two bat species were also rediscovered during this survey, one of which was last seen over a century ago.

The Bicoloured roundleaf bat (Hipposideros bicolor) was last recorded over 130 years ago. So it was exciting to hear that the survey team discovered three females at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The bats, which have a wingspan of 20cm, weigh between 7g and 10g. Here's an IUCN factsheet about the bat.
The Naked bulldog bat (Cheiromeles torquatus) was first recorded in Singapore in 1878. In 2005, Dr Leong encountered a small flock in flight at dusk in the forest near Rifle Range Road. The survey team was also found four at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
It is South-east Asia's largest insect-eating bat with a wingspan of 60cm, and weighs up to 200g. The creatures appear hairless, but are actually covered with short fur. They have tails, large canine teeth, and feed on large, hard-shelled insects which are too big for other bats to devour.

But the really distinctive feature about this bat is apparently its smell. Which Dr Leong describes as 'stale socks drenched in engine oil'. This come from a yellow, oily substance secreted from throat glands. Here's an IUCN factsheet about the bat.

Bats are good!

Bats play a strong role in maintaining ecological balance. While birds do the day time shift, these silent flying mammals take over at night: eating insects, pollinating flowers, dispersing fruits.

There would be no durians without bats! And many more mosquitos too!

Sadly our bats are threatened by people who disturb or even hunt them.

While some bats can be found even in urban areas, including living inside your house, our forests, mangroves and other wild places are an important refuge for bat species which are more shy.

To learn more about bats in general: Bat Conservation International.

More about Singapore bats

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