Bats – True Indonesian Mammal
One of the most interesting aspects of Indonesia is the vast amount of wildlife to be found. Orangutans and tigers are probably the most famous inhabitants of this large country of 17,000 islands. With such a large number of islands spread over a large area, there is a seemingly never ending variety of fauna. One of the most spectacular sightings of wildlife in the country is surprisingly enough bats. Yes, you read that right, bats!
Indonesia and the Theory of Evolution
Indonesia is a very large country. In fact, it measures a similar distance from east to west as does Australia or the U.S.A. When you combine the size with it’s location at the intersection of several major tectonic plates, you get very diverse speciation. It was in Indonesia that the great biologist Alfred Russel Wallace theorized evolution at the same time as the Charles Darwin. His theories were compiled from a study of how there was a distinct difference in the animal life as one traveled further east. As he traveled further east the number of native true mammals dwindled and their niche was overtaken by marsupials.
Bats and Other Mammals in Indonesia
Of course many people associate Indonesia with primates and monkeys. However, these higher level mammals are only present as far east as Sulawesi and Flores. The only true wild mammal that can be found further east is the bat! The reason for this is complex yet quite simple at the same time. During past ice ages ocean levels dropped, allowing species to roam out of Asia. However, certain bodies of water such as the Lombok Strait were too deep to allow a land bridge. Therefore many species weren’t able to move further east. However, with strong wings and the ability to fly this did not stop bats. They have migrated all across Indonesia, Australia, and to many Pacific Islands.
Indonesia Has A Lot of Bats!
There are at least 175 different species of bat in Indonesia. These range from palm sized species to giant flying foxes. One thing they all have in common is their nocturnal habits. They roost during the day in caves, trees, and other safe habitats. However, as the sun begins to set they begin to stir. This makes for some very incredible photographic opportunities if you happen to be near a bat colony at sunset. Just before dark the entire colony will rise at the same time to hunt. In several spots throughout Indonesia this means literally thousands upon thousands of bats flying overhead at once.
Bats serve a very important role in the animal kingdom. They are voracious predators of insects such as mosquitos and other airborne pests. Other species eat fruit and these are important for pollinating different fruit and plants. However, populations are at risk from humans. Fruit farmers think they are menace because they often eat their fruit. They are also at risk in certain areas due to being a food source for humans.
Watching Bats on the Samata
We love seeing big flocks of bats! The nightly phenomenon when they head out to feed truly is something to see. One of the best places to witness this is in the Komodo National Park. A small mangrove island close to the Flores mainland is home to tens of thousands of large flying foxes. We like to anchor the boat beside this island just before sunset to watch the bats take off en masse. Get your camera ready though, it only last for about 15 minutes before they are gone!
There is also a bat cave on the island of Rinca that we visit which is home to a completely different species of bats. If you would like to see these incredible animals please let the Cruise Director know when you are onboard.