The Philadelphia Zoo marked both Bat Week and Bat Appreciation Month on October 25 with a post celebrating the Rodrigues fruit bat, a species that was once on the brink of extinction until a long-term conservation program was launched in the 1990s.
The fruit bat — sometimes known as a “flying fox” — is a native of Rodrigues, a small volcanic island in the Indian Ocean that is part of the Republic of Mauritius. After Europeans discovered the uninhabited island in the mid-1600s, the bat’s numbers steadily declined. “By the 1950s there were an estimated 1,000 bats on the island, and by the ’70s there were less than 100,” according to the Philadelphia Zoo.
Up to 1994, the endangered bats were breeding at just two locations: the Jersey Preservation Trust, now the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, in the United States, and on Mauritius, close to Rodrigues. That year, the Philadelphia Zoo was one of a group of zoos that began bringing breeding pairs to the US “to expand breeding efforts and protect the future of the species,” the zoo says.
“Today, the species is recovering with more than 20,000 individuals,” the Philadelphia Zoo says on its website.
Video posted by the zoo shows one of the Rodrigues fruit bats hanging upside down as it munches on food served in a bat-themed bucket.
According to the zoo, Rodrigues fruit bats “are very social and live in large colonies” and enjoy eating “figs, guavas, bananas and other ripe fruits.” Rather than using echolocation to navigate and find food, as most bats do, the Rodrigues fruit bats use their eyesight and sense of smell, the zoo says. They grow to be “about 5 to 8 inches tall and have a wingspan of about 3 feet,” they added.
Bat Week runs from October 24 up to Halloween on October 31, according to the National Park Service. Bat Appreciation Month is celebrated throughout October by several American zoos, including the Philadelphia Zoo, Houston Zoo, and Florida’s Brevard Zoo. Credit: Philadelphia Zoo via Storyful