ONE of the world's largest bats, the flying fox, has become the latest resident at the Emperor Valley Zoo in Port of Spain.
Zoological Society president Gupte Lutchmedial told Newsday that 13 flying foxes arrived in TT on Thursday from Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, around 3.30 pm. Newsday was told that the Emperor Valley Zoo is the only zoo south of Miami which has these bats. The flying foxes, which are all adults, will be kept in entry quarantine for 60 days in keeping with protocols regarding animals being brought into TT.
Zoo officials indicated that after that period, the flying foxes would be on display for visitors. Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat also highlighted the arrival of the bats on his Facebook page. The flying foxes, pteropus vampyrus, are indigenous to the tropics and subtropics of Asia (including the Indian subcontinent), Australia, East Africa, and some oceanic islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Flying foxes eat fruit and other plant matter, and occasionally consume insects as well. They locate resources with their keen sense of smell. Most, but not all, are nocturnal. They navigate with keen eyesight, as they cannot echolocate. They have long life spans and low reproductive outputs, with females of most species producing only one offspring per year. Their slow life history makes their populations vulnerable to threats such as overhunting, culling, and natural disasters.
Six flying fox species have been made extinct in modern times by overhunting. Flying foxes are often persecuted for their real or perceived role in damaging crops. They are ecologically beneficial by assisting in the regeneration of forests via seed dispersal. They benefit ecosystems and human interests by pollinating plants.