Hmmmm…bats…

Normally I am a big fan of bats, but usually I am watching them feast on unwanted mosquitoes outside and not flying at my head inside my home.

Day 1: We were sitting quietly in our living room after watching a movie; and all of the sudden, something flew straight at us – seemingly from the television – all horror-movie-like. The vampire visitor flew around for an hour, knocking things about the house before the maintenance man (a.k.a. the less than happy guy our landlord woke up and sent to help) showed up with a net and broom. After over an hour of searching, our flying friend was nowhere to be found. Apparently the clever bat caught a whiff of his scent and hid somewhere in the house. Hesitantly we tried to fall asleep, knowing our visitor could be lurking anywhere.

Day 2: Come evening time, our guest started leisurely flying in circles around each room. This time we took matters into our own hands and a friend safely removed the small flying creature and brought him outside where he flew off into the night sky.

Day 3: After my krav maga class, I walked into our dark home alone not expecting any additional company. Given that – I was quite surprised when a bat flew towards my head. Is this his bat lover? His bat child? He came back because he missed us? Our friendly neighborhood maintenance man came back with his trusty net and broom and again the shy little guy decided to take cover. At this point Nupur was convinced he was a real life vampire. Armed with silver bullets and garlic, the man with the net searched the house, but the vampire was nowhere to be found. He is still at-large!

All species of mammals are susceptible to rabies virus infection, but bats are notorious in campfire stories for being menacing. Connecticut’s DEP website says that “less than 1 percent of all bats are infected.” The CDC states that “Wild animals accounted for 92% of reported cases of rabies in 2009. Raccoons continued to be the most frequently reported rabid wildlife species (34.8% of all animal cases during 2009), followed by bats (24.3%), skunks (23.9%), foxes (7.5%), and other wild animals, including rodents and lagomorphs (1.9%).”

Other than the occasional case of rabies, bats are pretty awesome!  The CDC‘s bat page explains that “bats play key roles in ecosystems around the globe, from rain forests to deserts. They eat insects, including some that can cause lots of damage to farms and crops. They pollinate plants and they scatter seed. Studies of bats have contributed to medical advances including the development of navigational aids for the blind.”

Another recent and slightly sketchy bat memory of mine happened in January while in the small mountain town of Yuksom in Sikkim,India. My day started off peaceful, I walked to the small town lake – gorgeous and serene – I was the only visitor. Flickering prayer flags surrounded the glass-like green water as I sat on a well positioned rock. I read, I wrote etc. etc. – time passed.  Breaking the silence, a rustling sound came from under me. Looking under the small overhang of the rock I was sitting on, my eyes fixed on the movement. A small bat stared up at me. Hmmmm….a slow moving confused bat, out during the day, squirming inches from me!!! Probably not the greatest situation.  Backing away I hoped that he would not fly out and attack me – given the rabies thing and all. Luckily, I escaped unscathed!

A few years ago, I had another Indian bat experience while in one of my favorite cities, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. The Golden City lies in the heart of the Thar Desert and has a fantastic fort. The Jaisalmer Fort was built in 1156 and currently houses about one fourth of the city’s population. While the main attractions within the fort are the Raj Mahal, Jain temples and the Laxminath temple I most enjoyed my sleeping quarters and eating dinner at the roof top restaurant each night. Since there were very few tourists at the time, I often was the only guest and stayed late into the night drinking chai and gazing up at the sky, watching bats dance around the stars as they chased their mosquito dinner.  It was enchanting!

Bats can be super cute – flying foxes or fruit bats are especially adorable! While researching information on bats, I found the lovable  looking Honduran white bat. These tiny (37-47 mm long) white bats have yellow noses and ears and live in colonies inside large leaves they make into tents.

Bats are the only mammals capable of sustained flight. In 2008 Scientific American did a three-part video series called Bats beyond Twilight discussing a 52 million year old fossil discovery that allowed scientists to answer the much debated question – which came first in bat evolution: the ability to fly or echolocation.

Happy Orange Suggestion: See the best in bats, but try to avoid hugging them! 🙂

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