Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Giant Golden-crowned Flying Fox

I posted an image a couple of weeks ago of the flying foxes my group saw in the Philippines, but I wanted to share a bit more about them. We encountered this mammal (a lifer for me) in the forest near Subic Bay on the island of Luzon.

The flying foxes (formerly known as fruit bats—they are not foxes, but merely look like foxes) were in their daytime roosts, hanging upside-down. The scene was something I'd only ever seen in nature documentaries or in films set in Southeast Asia. From a distance, it looked as if a whole shipment of dark-brown umbrellas had fallen from a cargo plane and landed in the trees.

These flying foxes are, I believe, giant golden-crowned flying foxes, a species that is endangered in the Philippines. There may have been more than one species present in these roosts. But we only had limited time to see them, scope them, snap a few images or some short video clips, and then we had to split for a lunch date.

A couple of notable things about these animals.
  1. They were BIG! I am not a squeamish person, but seeing a bat this large was pretty gulp-inspiring.
  2. They sleep by day and forage on the wing at night.
  3. They flapped a lot to keep cool in the late-morning sun.
  4. They are fruit-eating bats, not vampire bats (which are native only to the Americas).
  5. As fruit eaters and pollinators, they play an important role in the health of the forests.
  6. Many of the flying fox species are hunted in Asia, mostly for food.
  7. Their faces are dog-like, their eyes surprisingly human.
  8. You could certainly pick out the male bats with no trouble at all.
Here are two short video clips I shot of the giant golden-crowned flying foxes near Subic Bay.



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