Bat Facts

BlossomHolowkowebScientific name: Chiroptera (meaning hand wing). Family Pteropodidae. The Grey Headed Flying Fox are Megabats and are also known as Fruit Bats.

Anatomy and biology: Bats are the only mammals capable of flight. They are more closely related to primates and humans than to any other mammals. Their wing structure is similar to a human hand with elongated finger structures and a thin membrane of soft, strong elastic that stretches between the finger bones and sides of the body. They fly at 25-30kms per hour. They have fur and give birth to a single live baby with a life expectancy of 20 years. They do not echolocate but use eyesight and smell to locate food and each other.

Habitat: A camp or colony of fruit bats live by day beside the Yarra River just 6kms from Melbourne’s CBD and number up to 30,000 in summer months depending on the availability of food. A second camp is being established in Dandenong and is currently seeing this population split between these two sites. They are social animals and roost together in trees making a wide variety of calls including searching calls by mother flying foxes seeking their young, mating calls and warnings. The bats fly up to 50kms from there roost in search of food at night and often return to the same locations each evening but can travel vast distances in relocation. A loss of natural habitat, climate change and the emergence of alternative food sources in urban areas have encouraged the fruit bats into urban living in Melbourne. Some fruit bat camps have been known to be in use for over 100 years.

Food: Megabats are the largest bats in the world and have great eyesight and sense of smell. They are vegetarians and eat nectar from blossoming eucalypts and therefore play a big role in pollination and seed dispersal across vast distances in native forests. They also eat fruit such as native figs and lilly pilly and introduced fruit in urban areas and farmland.

The grey headed flying fox is considered vulnerable to extinction.

Image: © Artwork Kathy Holowko

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What’s in a name?

When I found out that Melbourne might have been called Batmania, I couldn’t resist the name for the installation. Come on, it couldn’t get any cooler! It is interesting to wonder about the cultural impact this name would have had on our relationship with the local bat population. I imagine they may have become the emblematic symbol of this city rather than the largely ignored wild neighbours that they currently are. I named this work Batmania before I knew much about the history of one of Melbourne ‘founders’ John Batman. It turns out that he was a bit of a rogue trader that attempted to settle Port Phillip with questionable land treaties… alas it is our history and still a great name.

http://www.nma.gov.au/interactives/batmania/shell.html

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A feast of films

A great Ted Talk by Tim Pearson

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A lovely documentary by Ben Dessen

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A documentary shown on the ABC about carers looking after baby bats in the NSW heatwave:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-21/fruit-bats-rescued-from-destroyed-homes-get/5910812

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Bat facts:

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Bats and diseases, explained in animation:

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The bats of Australia, National Geographic:

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A great article by Deborah Rose Bird

http://press.anu.edu.au//apps/bookworm/view/Australian+Humanities+Review+-+Issue+50,+2011/5451/ch07.xhtml

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Microbats and echolocation (Fruit bats don’t echolocate btw)

and as a deviation on echolocation and hearing (totally unrelated to fruit bats) listen to this awesome doco

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/544/batman

Fruit nets

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Bats get caught up in fruit nets leading to death and injury. A traumatic experience for fruit tree owners and the bats! There is good netting and bad netting when it comes to bats. If you need to net your fruit trees, make it taught and use netting that doesn’t allow you to poke your finger through it. The square holes need to be small.

Gardening Australia explains it beautifully…

http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s3791690.htm

Do not handle any wildlife especially when injured, call a specialist – Wildlife Victoria 13 000 94535

Image: These nets were photographed while at a wildlife carers house. These nets were removed after a bat was caught in netting and sustained injuries that required her care.