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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

24 December 2013

Bats in tents

17th December 2013

One of the great things about a wildlife holiday is discovering things that haven’t even (that I know of) been mentioned in a wildlife documentary. Have you ever heard of tent-making bats?

20131223-201429.jpgIn parts of the tropics where there are few caves, bats have learned to build their own shelters for the night, or rather for the day, out of large leaves. They nibble the leaf in a specific way so that it partially collapses to provide a sheltered spot to hang out in. There are different styles of tent architecture, ranging from the upside-down boat to the conical tent, and while most species of tent-making bat specialise in one style, there is also a species who can build in all the different styles depending on what kind of leaves they are presented with.

20131223-201207.jpgWe’ve been looking at tent-making bats at Tirimbina Lodge with a helpful guide, and looking for wildlife at night along their huge, spindly suspension bridge over the river. This we’ve been doing alone, as all the staff are off having their Christmas party! We saw a kinkajou, though only briefly. Go on, google it. : )

Tirimbina turned out better than expected. We arrived in pouring rain and the receptionist was useless. Then it looked like the special walk to look for bats that we had booked via email was just going to be a typical introductory “look, a big spider!” tourist walk with a perfectly nice couple from Holland. But our guide was a bat expert and picked up our enthusiasm to see mammals, so I’m afraid the Dutch couple got to see more bats and hear less about the common rainforest critters and plants! 20131223-201119.jpgMind you, who couldn’t love the tiny Honduran White bats dangling in a fuzzy bundle in their Heliconia leaf tent? Each was no bigger than a thumb, eight in total, and they looked tiny and fragile with no better shelter than a leaf. Of all mammals I usually find it hard to get excited by the bats – there are hundreds of species but many look alike and you usually encounter them as a brief fluttering blur on an evening walk. These tent-making are something else.

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