Do Bats Migrate

Migration is a seasonal practice of several animal species. They indulge in this act for one reason – to escape unfavorable weather conditions and to return to their former habitats when the weather is back to normal.

Hibernation on the other hand is a survival strategy also adopted by animals to survive extremely cold weather. During this period, they become totally or partially inert and they retire to a pre-planned spot or area until the cold winter period elapses.

Many bats that live in cold regions are known to hibernate for the periods when the winter turns harsh in order to stay alive. But there are other bat species that travel several miles away so they can enjoy favorable weather all year round.

One of the bat species that migrate is the little brown bat. Its habitats are more common in the world’s temperate regions. One unique feature of the brown bats is that while some of them hibernate in winter, a greater number of them would still migrate.

In the African city of Kasanka in Zambia for instance, bats can be seen seasonally in their millions as they return every year in November and December. They gorge on Kasanka’s seasonal fruit abundance. According to watchers however, no one has been able to tell where they are coming from or to identify where they return to year in, year out.

The Kasanka National park plays host to a great number of the migrating bats every year. Of course, the abundance of fruits to feed on and the availability of a wide range of insects to devour, cannot be ruled out as reasons for the attraction. And their migration helps spread the fruit across the nation and even to other African nations close to Zambia.

It is estimated that migrating bats are responsible for more than 60% of major seed dispersal in the rain forests of Africa. The economic trees that produce timber and cash crops are among the seeds dispersed in substantial volumes by the migrating bats.

Although many questions persist as to if and why bats migrate, years of research has given many a clue as to the answers. Biologists Heidi Richter of the University of Florida through her observation and research of migrant bats in Kasanka forest gave some more pointers. She observed the fact that majority of the migrant bats were expectant mothers. According to her, some were at the early stages of their conception while the others were half way into their terms. Thus reproduction can not be ruled out of the reasons for bat migration.

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