Happy Halloween from one of the spookiest animals around: bats! Bats are the only mammals that fly and they are most active at night, so keep your eyes peeled for a bat while you’re trick or treating.
Contrary to popular belief, not all bats want to suck your blood. Most bats are omnivores and enjoy eating insects, vegetables, fruits, flowers, and nectar. They can disperse the seeds of fruits and flowers when they defecate, helping to spread these seeds to different areas in their habitat. Here at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, we have three different species of bats in our animal collection.
Photo by Allison L., Bird Keeper
Straw-colored fruit bats are the largest bats at the Zoo with a wingspan of almost 30 inches. They get their name from the straw-colored fur around their neck. These bats eat a variety of fruits and love to nibble on flowers. Our bats’ favorite food are bananas, cantaloupe, corn, and kale! In the wild, straw-colored fruit bats are found primarily in Africa, but here you can see them best at Elephant Plaza.
Photo by Katie L., Mammal Keeper
Seba’s short-tailed bats are the smallest bats at the Zoo with a wingspan of almost 9 inches. You can find them in the Lost Temple at Range of the Jaguar. Some of their favorite treats to get from keepers are bananas, corn on the cob, and papaya. In the wild, you would find these bats in Central and South America.
Vampire bats are the only mammals that feed entirely on blood. They usually prey on sleeping cattle and horses. While their bites could cause potential infection or disease, they do not remove enough blood to harm the host. They have the fewest number of teeth out of all the species of bats at the Zoo, since their diet is primarily liquid. Like the Seba’s short-tailed bats, you can find vampire bats here in the Lost Temple and also in Central and South America.
Even though the species of bats that live at our Zoo are of least concern on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), there are still threats to their status including hunting, habitat destruction, pesticide poisoning, and persecution by humans. We can help bats by protecting roosting sites, creating bat houses, and educating others about the importance of bats to our ecosystem.