A rare sighting of Wahlberg’s epauletted fruit bats in a residential garden has a Bryanston resident over the moon.
The large bats are incredibly rare in urban areas and their sighting in Bryanston is the first reported. John Souglides first noticed the bats in his garden about two months ago. He would regularly leave out fruit for the birds in his garden and soon noticed the new additions, he told Sandton Chronicle.
Souglides contacted Michelle Watson of the Johannesburg Wildlife Hospital to come and identify the bats. Watson said the bats were usually found along the coast in KwaZulu-Natal where there was an abundance of fruit trees.
In Johannesburg, there are many different species of bats, however, they all feed on insects. Wahlberg’s epauletted fruit bats are larger than the bats typically found in Johannesburg and can be identified by the white patches of hair behind their ears.
Souglides has grown attached to the bats since they’ve started visiting his garden every evening to feed off a fruit tray. “At first I wasn’t sure what they were, I thought ‘what are these birds doing here so late at night?’”
Watson added that when she first received the call about the bats she was sceptical because they were so rarely sighted in the area. “It’s very special and very rare. I’ve been doing bat rescue for 10 years and I’ve only ever once had one come into the clinic.”
Watson added that deforestation might be the reason for the bats moving into more urban areas and they might become more regularly sighted in the suburbs.
In summer, the bats don’t typically need any extra fruit provided for them as there is plenty in season but during the colder months, they might need a bit of extra fruit provided for them. Souglides is so enthusiastic about the little creatures in his garden that he visits the fruit shop every day to stock up on fruit the bats enjoy the most.
Watson added that while there was definitely a misconception that bats were pests, they were anything but: “They are completely harmless, they are such a big contributor to the environment because they are pollinators and they’re not dirty creatures. Bats spend most of the day in the nest grooming themselves so they are impeccably clean.”
Both Watson and Souglides are overjoyed by the animals which have made their new home in Bryanston and hope to encourage them to stay for a while longer.
For more information about the bats contact the Johannesburg Wildlife Hospital on 071 248 1514.