Epauletted Fruit Bats

Epomophorus crypturus,

Epomophorus wahlbergi

In South Africa we have two species of Epauletted Fruit Bat, often occurring together in mixed colonies and indistinguishable from each other in the field. These are Peters’s (E. crypturus) and Wahlberg’s (E. wahlbergi) Epauletted Fruit Bats. They’re distributed in the moist eastern parts of our country, with Wahlberg’s occurring from the Garden Route through to the Lowveld while Peters’s occurs as far south as the Eastern Cape coast. Both species are also found further north into central and east Africa and are considered to be of least concern by the IUCN.

Epauletted Fruit Bats are large bats, weighing around 100g with wingspans of about 50cm. They inhabit forests, riverine woodland and dense savannas in which there’s a preponderance of fruiting trees. Unfortunately their fondness for soft fruit make them a nuisance in orchards.

Epauletted Fruit Bats are mainly nocturnal though they may be seen about on heavily overcast days. They utter a frog-like pinging call, a familiar night sound in many of the wild places we visit and a personal favourite. By day they hang in deep shade in trees or under thatched roofs, often in noisy colonies numbering from a few individuals into the hundreds. They normally search for food singly, although large groups may congregate at fruiting trees. Most babies are born in early summer, with the single baby clinging to its mother’s nipples as she flies around in search of food.

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24 thoughts on “Epauletted Fruit Bats

  1. colonialist

    Numbers of Wahlbergs in Durban seem to have declined lately from my (lack of) observations.
    Perhaps it is a spin-off from so many trees having been destroyed or rendered unsafe during our storms of the past year or so.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      I think you are quite correct, Leslie, for without suitable fruiting trees available year-round they cannot remain in the area. It would be interesting to see whether they return as the plants re-establish themselves.

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  2. Joanne Sisco

    What I find most impressive is that you actually stopped to take photos of the bats. Yes, I know they are great for managing insect populations, but that wouldn’t have stopped me from running screaming from the building 😉

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  3. perdebytjie

    Dis darem die interessantste diertjies. Ek is mal oor daardie pienggeluid en dis so eie aan natuur en bosveld…dit doen dieselfde vir my as die skree van ‘n visarend. Pragtige foto’s, veral die ronde dak met die klossies wat so vasklou!

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  4. John

    Great pictures!😊 Bats is one of the best insects catcher and is so important. Unfortunately, they have received a bad reputation. Here in Kristianstad there are many bats and a big cave is closed for the public in the winter when the bats overwinter there. In the forests there are also many bat boxes in the trees.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thanks, John! Insect-eating bats really are an invaluable part of the ecosystem – without them we’d be overrun by disease-carrying insects! And fruit-eating bats like these play such an important part in the pollination of many indigenous trees and the dispersal of their seeds.

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