One of the first discoveries having arrived at UKZN in Pietermaritzburg in April last year,was the roost of the Epauletted Fruit bats right here on campus. Its such a novelty for a Kiwi, to have big bats so close to home and work. Infact Prof Downs was recollecting a story about a lady that worked in her office right against the roost tree. She had to work with her curtains closed because she was uneasy with the bats constantly staring at her with those big beady eyes all day. Personally I would move into that office right now given half a chance!
An MSc research project was completed in 2012. "Seasonal home range and foraging movements of the Wahlbergs Epauletted Fruit Bat in an urban environment." By D P Rollinson. The bats were fitted with transmitters and followed on foraging expeditions. The research was wrapping up when I arrived in April, and while bats were being recaptured to remove the transmitters used in the study, sadly I never managed to get involved at that time.
Fortunately new research is beginning on the bats that use this roost. Providing an opportunity to get in amongst it. Dr. Lorinda Jordaan is hoping to catch a few bats every month. The longitudinal study will focus is on the bats breeding cycle, and in particular on the aromatic compounds secreted special glands on their shoulders that give them their namessake - epaulettes.
This last weekend was particularly successful, we caught four on the first night and six on the second. Getting an opportunity to get up close, extract them from nest and handle them in the lab, it was a real buzz. Swabs of the epaulettes were taken and then the bats were weighed and released.
|Fruit bat roost tree|
|The flyway interceptor|
|Prof. Colleen Downs extracting a bat from the net|
|Released after sampling|