A Marvel of the Animal Kingdom
At first glance, golden-crowned bats may seem intimidating with their immense wingspan and eerie appearance. But don’t let their frightening look fool you – these delicate creatures are simply trying to survive amidst deforestation and hunting.
These fruit-eating megabats, unique to the Philippines, pose no threat to humans. In fact, they have become an endangered species due to human encroachment on their habitat and illegal hunting.
Debunking the Myth of “Human-Sized” Bats
When viral photographs of golden-crowned bats emerged, they were initially labeled as “human-sized.” This misinterpretation caused confusion and panic among people. However, let’s set the record straight – these bats are only as big as a small child, not an average adult human.
With a wingspan of approximately 5-foot-6 and a body length ranging from seven to 11.4 inches, weighing less than 3 pounds, the enormous golden-crowned bat is one of the largest bat species in the world.
A Nocturnal Herbivore with a Unique Crown
These impressive bats are nocturnal herbivores, foraging for roots, fruits, and vegetables under the cover of night. Their heads are adorned with a fluffy golden crown, adding a touch of charm to their appearance.
While there are other varieties of flying fox megabats in Asia, Africa, and Australia, the golden-crowned flying fox (Acerodon jubatus) can only be found in the Philippines. These bats often form large colonies with up to 10,000 members, making their homes in the Philippine jungles.
Surviving Against the Odds
Giant Golden-crowned Flying Foxes navigate through the air using their keen sight and scent, rather than relying on echolocation like many other bat species. Through their feeding habits, these bats also contribute to reforestation, spreading fig seeds across the Philippines.
Unfortunately, the harder these bats work, the more destruction humans cause. Over 90% of the old-growth forests in the Philippines have been lost, leading to the disappearance of these bats from many of their former roosting locations on various islands, according to Bat Conservation International (BCI).
Since 1986, the golden-crowned bat population has rapidly declined, decreasing by 50%. This decline is primarily attributed to the destruction of their natural habitat and hunting for recreation, commerce, and even personal consumption. As a result, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified them as endangered.
Facing Brutal Threats
Despite legal protection under the Philippine Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001, the enforcement of this law remains lacking. Even in protected zones, these bats face mass killings when hunters shoot them while they sleep. This ruthless activity leaves many injured bats clinging to branches, preventing them from escaping.
But despite the deep danger humans pose to their survival, flying foxes do not fear people. They can be spotted in forests near cities or towns, perched on utility poles, or even loitering in inhabited areas where they feel comfortable. These bats have the ability to distinguish between safe and unsafe environments, choosing to move and roost in inaccessible areas, often at altitudes surpassing 1,000 feet.
Intelligence That Surprises
Studies have revealed that these bats are not only incredible learners but also possess remarkable memory capabilities, akin to the intelligence of dogs. In an experiment on operant conditioning, flying fox bats raised by humans quickly learned to pull levers in exchange for juice rewards. Even more impressively, when returning to the experimental chamber years later, they immediately removed the levers, knowing they would no longer be rewarded.
Our Call to Action
Golden-crowned flying foxes may have a distinctive physical appearance that some find unsettling or terrifying. Their enlarged eyes, pointed teeth, and leathery wings can evoke feelings of fear or unease. However, it’s crucial to remember that out of the 1,300 species of bats, only three are known to consume human blood. And if we embrace their unique charm, we might just find these golden-crowned bats to be quite endearing!
It is disheartening to witness the slaughter of these innocent creatures and the destruction of their habitat due to deforestation. Join us in spreading the word about these gentle bats, and let’s work together to protect this endangered species. Together, we can make a difference!