a publication of Sungei Buloh Nature Park

Vol 6 No 2
Aug 99

Common Tree

Otters in Sight


Flying Fox
(Pteropus scapulatus)


at Sungei Buloh

Fishing Survey

School Activities
at Sungei Buloh

Spin Doctor
at Work:

by the Park
  Find out more about flying foxes and bats with "Batman" Tay Soon Lian
as he tells you the myths and truths about these amazing creatures ...
in the night, of course...

Flying Fox

Scientific name: Pteropus scapulatus

Home: Tropical rainforests of Northeastern Australia and Southeast Asian islands.

Description: Small, dog-like face and eyes, reddish brown fur, leathery black wings, black nose, wing span of about 5ft, and weighs up to 53oz.


Bat Facts: Unlike their smaller cousins, the bats, flying foxes roost outside in the sun rather than in caves. High above the forest floor, "camps" of flying foxes hang upside down together, sometimes as many as a few thousand will congregate at the same spot. They hang from branches by one or both feet, wrap themselves in their wings and sleep the day away. On very hot days, these bats keep cool by fanning themselves with their wings.

Flying foxes use their excellent sense of sight and smell (more than echolocation) to locate their fruit at night. These creatures are frugivores, i.e., fruit-eaters. They also consume flowers and pollen and assist in pollination in the same way bees do. They use their sensitive sense of smell to detect ripe fruits and places where flowers are blooming. Flying foxes can fly up to 80 km for food! They use their long, bristly tongues (ideal for lapping up juicy fruits) for licking and grooming themselves or their friends. There are more than 160 species of fruit bats in the world, but only about 60 species of the larger fruit bats make up the family of flying foxes. Male flying foxes get the female's attention by singing loudly and flashing bunches of hair on their backs! Obviously the female flying "vixens" think hairy backs are the latest in flying fox fashion apparel!

Now that you know several truths about flying foxes, have you heard these myths about bats?

All bats are blind? All bats can see, see better than us. The larger bats have big eyes that enable them to see flowers and fruits in the night. Smaller bats can still see, but rely on their ability to echolocate in order to capture insects and to navigate in the night.

All bats are dirty and carry rabies? Bats are clean animals that groom themselves daily. Yes, they can contract rabies, but less than 1% of the world's species of bats actually have rabies. You are more likely to contract rabies from an unvaccinated dog or cat.

Bats will try to fly into your hair?
Bats do not want to be in your hair! Experiments have shown that they could not get a bat to stay on a person's head even though they wrapped the hair around the bat.

Bats are vampires that will suck your blood? There are only 5 species of vampire bats that live in Central and South America. They do not suck blood. Concentrating primarily on mammals, they make a small incision with their razor sharp teeth and then lap up the blood. Scientists are currently looking into using saliva from these bats to develop new anticoagulant drugs to prevent blood clots in patients with heart-related problems.

However, the one REAL fact I found out from writing about bats is, You Have To Do It At Night!
© Sungei Buloh Nature Park