More than 1500 observations!

It's been actually a while ago that AfriBats passed its 1500th observation - time to review what has happened since the last "five-hundred update", and to add some glittering charts, which are summarizing data since the project started! And just hover with your mouse over the graphs, you'll be surprised...

Data accumulation
AfriBats is on a steady increase, with some bumps and lows, but overall it's a steep accumulation of exciting bat observations:

Observations per bat family
Not surprisingly, some bat families are easier to spot (or catch, for that matter) than others. Clearly leading in this respect are fruit bats (Pteropodidae), which are frequently observed when roosting in trees:

Observed species richness per bat family
In terms of species richness, the picture is quite different and vesper bats (Vespertilionidae) are dominating. But have a look at AfriBats' checklist which species still haven't been recorded at all!

Number of observations per species
It's also quite informative how many times, on average, a species has been observed in the various families. Again, this very much depends how easy it is to spot different bat groups, but also how easy (or difficult) it is to identify them. Quite a few fruit bats (Pteropodidae) are very distinctive, and so are the 2 species of false vampire bats (Megadermatidae), Lavia frons and Cardioderma cor. Many horseshoe bats (Rhinolophidae), free-tailed bats (Molossidae), vesper bats (Vespertilionidae) and bent-winged bats (Miniopteridae) can only be identified to species level if handled and examined in detail by a specialist, hence the low number of species observations in these groups (there are many observations in these families IDed to genus but not species level):

Let's highlight some of the exciting new observations:

Already mentioned was one of my favourite species, the heart-nosed bat (Cardioderma cor), which has been observed here, here, and here. Check out this video, quite appropriately entitled Cutest Bat in the World:

The African sheath-tailed bat, Coleura afra, is widely distributed in East Africa while there are surprisingly few records from West Africa. When James Steamer shared an observation of bats roosting in a historic dungeon near Freetown, Sierra Leone, we suspected that these bats might belong to that species. A few month later, Natalie Weber had the opportunity to visit the very same site and to examine the bats in more detail, which confirmed the initial suspicion, and resulted in the first record of Coleura afra for Sierra Leone!

There were quite a few other observations of rarely recorded species, one of which was Daubenton's free-tailed bat, Myopterus daubentonii, observed by Natalie in Senegal. That's an amazing species with semi-transparent wing membranes!

We've seen wonderful glimpses of natural history such as observations of perch-hunting roundleaf bats, Hipposideros commersonii, in Madagascar. The bats cling to the trunk of trees, or hang from branches, while constantly scanning their surroundings with echolocation. Once a large insect passes through their "field of hearing" (such as a large beetle or hawk-moth), they will intercept and catch it, and then usually eat the prey after returning to the same perch.

Other observations are simply breathtaking shots of bat diversity such as this amazing Seychelles Flying Fox (Pteropus seychellensis) from La Digue.

Rather than photographing bats, there are loads of possibilities to record the sounds of bats - either the echolocation calls of insect-eating bats, or the courtship calls of epauletted fruit bats as done here and here. The how-to is outlined in an earlier post. Definitely a largely untapped opportunity to document bat occurrences across Africa!

My personal highlight was witnessing (again) the breathtaking colony of straw-coloured fruit bats, Eidolon helvum, in Kasanka NP, Zambia and tracking their movements with GPS-loggers. If you get the chance, don't miss this unique spectacle and visit Kasanka between October and New Year!

Many studies have shown the outstanding role of these bats as ecosystem providers, a message that needs to be widely publicized in times when bats have received very negative press coverage due to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. So observations like this and this help improving the public perception of bats, and each AfriBats participant can contribute by spreading the word!

Also, AfriBats continues documenting bats as bushmeat in various parts of the continent such as in Ghana (here and here) or in DR Congo. Hunting bats is clearly not sustainable given the very slow reproduction of these mammals (most give birth to 1 or 2 pups per year), and avoiding bats as bushmeat is certainly a good way minimizing potential risks of disease transmission! Check out the position paper on bats and Ebola by Bat Conservation Africa (BCA) in case you haven't seen it yet (long version here)!

I'm very much looking forward to the next 500 observations! Cheers, Jakob

Posted by jakob jakob, September 16, 2015 18:45



Great analysis!!! Keep up the awesome work, Jakob et. al! :)

Posted by sambiology almost 4 years ago (Flag)

Thanks, Sam, your feed-back is appreciated!

Posted by jakob almost 4 years ago (Flag)

AAARGHHH still waiting for my first obs of a bat in Africa!!!! Jealous!

Posted by dakhlarovers over 3 years ago (Flag)

Great analysis!

Posted by jrme over 3 years ago (Flag)

Thanks for your feed-back, Martina & Jérôme! Please spread the word and encourage others to contribute.

Posted by jakob over 3 years ago (Flag)

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