Did you know that the bat is a symbol of happiness and joy for Chinese people?

At our March meeting, we were introduced to “The Secret Life of Bats” by Sally Humphreys and Lisa Watkinson from the East Dorset Bat Rescue and Rehabilitation Team.

Bats have often had a bad press! Images of bats have infiltrated our culture and have led to many misconceptions about these highly successful flying mammals. Sally helped to explode some of the myths:

  • Bats are not flying mice, they are more closely related to chimpanzees.
  • Bats are not all blind, fruit bats can see in glorious technicolour, cave dwellers see in monochrome. However, their amazing ability to echolocate replaces the need for high acuity vision.
  • Bats will not fly into your hair unless you have some tasty bat-food flying around your head.
  • Bats do not attack humans except when they feel threatened.

Through Sally’s encyclopaedic knowledge of bats we learned that there are over 1300 species of bats. They are the only true mammal that can fly, their wings being giant “hands” The fingers form the framework of the wings, which are enormous in relation to the body, the thumb being a claw, which enables them to hang upside down.

They’re a sleepy lot, spending up to 17 hours roosting, when their temperature drops from 35 to 12 degrees Celsius. They do a shiver and shake warm-up when they wake.

When awake, they are speedy fliers, some species reaching up to 60mph (one bat recorded a speed of 100mph!) They can also be big-eaters, some species dining on up to 3,000 insects in a night.

Bats can live to over 30 years, the oldest known bat celebrated its 41st birthday!

The bat is considered to be one of the slowest reproducing animals in the world. Since they live in large colonies, it isn’t difficult to find a mate. The males woo the females with “love” songs. Many species in temperate climates mate in Autumn but ovulation followed by fertilisation only occurs in Spring, after hibernation and the babes are born in Summer. A female generally has only one pup (born with up to 22 teeth!)

We learned a great deal about the 18 UK bat species. Sally and Lisa arrived at our meeting bearing cages containing cute little furry bats that have been rescued and rehabilitated. They were very small and very engaging for most of our members. We were introduced to Jethro, a Noctule Bat; Dusky, a Serotine Bat; Molly, a Brown Longeared Bat; Cuddles, a Common Pipistrelle Bat and Lucky, a Soprano Pipistrelle. They were handled very carefully by Sally and Lisa, wearing thick gloves. Did you know they purr when stroked? Ahhhhhhh.

Our next meeting is at 7.30 at West Lulworth Village Hall on Wednesday 3rd April. This will be our Annual Meeting followed by Social Time.

We have a great programme planned for the coming year, starting with a talk on “Animal Homeopathy” on 1st May. More programme information next month.

Halina Simpson