I recently saw a bat that got electrocuted while trying to hang on a high tension cable. I wondered why some birds perched on same cable were busy chirping away, till my husband reminded me that a bat isn’t a bird, but a mammal; being online for those birds was no big deal. The sight of the bat was a bit scary for me and most passers by and for them , the bat getting electrocuted is good enough reward for the evil creature. In most Nigerian communities, a bat is considered evil, infact it’s associated to ‘winshes and wizards”. It could be because it enjoys darkness and it’s physical features. For this post, it was not easy finding a moderately good looking bat . Who cares to protect “evil” ? Who wants bats for dinner?
This enlightening piece was written by Damian Daga of The Voice Newspaper , Makurdi, Benue State.
It is no longer news that bats are the only mammals that can fly. It is however news that this nocturnal creatures, which have modified hands and arms that serve as wings, capable of sustained flight are gradually becoming endangered. This mammal which has been in existence for close to 50 million years has nearly 1000 living species which according to Encarta Encyclopedia accounts for almost a quarter of all mammal species. The species are divided into two major groups, the first being the Megachiroptera, or mega-bats which are large and commonly known as Old World fruit bats because they are mainly fruit-eaters. These bats are only found in tropical habitats of Africa, India, and Australasia. The second group, the Microchiroptera, or micro-bats are smaller and eat a variety of foods, from small mammals to fish. Although history long fallacy by people who considered bats to be dangerous and frightful creatures of the night has come and gone, they continue to be wrongly and unjustifiably accused to be evil or carriers of diseases. It could be recalled that medieval superstition held sway that bats are blood suckers and carriers of rabies. However, studies give evidence to the contrary. Averagely, in the United States of America, only one person per year dies from rabid bat, a bite which is less than those who die from dog bites or bee stings; although, it is possible that some bats may carry some deadly virus. In Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria, there is no record of bat bite. In Makurdi, Benue State of Nigeria, bats could be said to be diminishing in numbers due to a change in their habitats with more construction being carried out and trees felled.
The hitherto biggest colony and abode of bats which used to be the Benue State Government House premises/environs and parts of the Old GRA area has witnessed massive felling of trees and renovation/construction of buildings which have disseminated the bat population. Against certain beliefs that the bat is blind, most bats have excellent vision. Bats use echolocation to see. “They produce high-frequency noises and can estimate the distance of an object by using the sound echoes that bounce back to them. So, while bats may travel in total darkness, they “see” using sound,” says VOA’s Mario Ritter. The United Nation’s declaration of 2011 and 2012 as the “Year of the Bat” is a campaign aimed at strengthening ways of protecting the only flying mammal. According to submissions by conservationists, over one-fifth of all bat species are under threat. They are faced with threats such as diseases and the human destruction of their natural environments. A disease such as the white-nose syndrome is responsible for deaths of bats. Statistically, the Bat Conservation International says “white-nose syndrome has killed more than a million bats since it was discovered in a New York cave in 2006 while in some areas, the disease has killed nearly one hundred percent of bat populations.” Interestingly though, bats are very important for agriculture and a stable environment. Bats are agents of plants pollination and they spread seeds. They pollinate at least 500 species which includes mangoes, bananas, cashews, figs, agave (from which tequila is produced) and dates. There is no gain saying, without bats night pollinating activities, it is likely that many bat-pollinated plants—and the many animals that depend on them for food and shelter—may go extinct. Bats droppings also produce a nitrogen-rich fertilizer known as guano. Bats which can eat large numbers of insects also help control insects; this includes types that damage crops. The brown bat alone is said to eat more than one thousand insects in an hour. Invariably, as reported by Science Magazine in 2011, bats insects eating habit saves farmers money in areas they thrive, as they reduce need for use of insecticides/pesticides. Another advantage of bats in the reduction of the use of chemicals for farming includes the adverse effect chemicals have on the environment, humans and wildlife.
Bats importance stretches into the medical industry as some of them carry a substance in their saliva which is used in the manufacture of a medicine for stroke, just as that of the vampire bats of Mexico and South America are used to make drugs for the human heart. It is on this premise that the National Geographic article which sought to demystify the epauleted bat and its plight in the face of human efforts at eradication either as pest or delicacy, comes to the fore. The fact that the bat is used by many as delicacy too leads to their eradication in many numbers. In many climes such as the Tiv speaking part of Benue State, certain persons enjoy bat as a source of meat and protein. A Vandeikya based transporter and graduate of Political Science from the Kogi State University, Peter Orshi says he enjoys bat delicacy once in a while. He however adds that it is rare as bat population seems to be dwindling and not too people many people care to hunt them for meat nowadays. A tutor in the Department of Biology at Vaatia College, Makurdi Benue State and B.Sc.Ed graduate, Emmanuel Nyigba opined that although he doesn’t eat bats, people do because of its source of protein. According to him, bats play a vital role in the maintenance of the eco-system hence; the government and indeed, others should exercise restraint in destroying their habitats. “Conservation of bats is important and needs to be encouraged in all quarters and clime,” added Nyigba. There is every need to salvage the remaining population of bats in our environment and it starts with sensitization and awareness of their true nature and importance. With the effort in the United States, where nearly 40 percent of native bat species are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act adoption of such conservation strategies by other countries will protect already fraught local populations of bats. A cue should be taken by governments and organizations from the World Conservation Union (also known as IUCN) and Bat Conservation International who have volunteered through sponsorship to save bats populations. “Not acting is not an option because the life histories of these flying, nocturnal mammals – characterized by long generation times and low reproductive rates –mean that population recovery is unlikely for decades or even centuries, if at all,” said Gary McCracken, Head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville USA. To this end, many precautions and studies on the effect of urbanization as it affect bats population should be carried out; after all, these flying mammals play very important roles in our ecosystem.
Published in The Voice and http://www.demigodsocietyoutlook.blogspot.com/