Nepal’s Flying Fox

Most people are apprehensive about bats but when they learn that a particular bat has a wingspan of more than four feet, they become edgy. Spawned by horror stories of vampire bats that are completely fictitious, they might assume that such a creature is a massive, blood thirsty monster. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Indian flying fox may be one of the largest bats in the world, but it is completely harmless.

In fact, the only things likely to suffer some damage are a few fruit orchids since these massive creatures feed mainly on fruit. In fact, they do not prey on mammals of any sort.

The Indian Flying Fox was named for its rather curiously shaped fox-like head and reddish brown fur. In fact, if you see one up close you are more likely to want to cuddle it than to shrink back in horror. While they are not unique to Nepal, they are just one of the many spectacular creatures that you can find here. Most Indian flying foxes live in tropical forests and swamps. Many of these beautiful creatures prefer coastal areas though it is not unheard of to find them living further inland. However, no matter where they live they are never found far from water. This is because they lose a lot of moisture through their wings and so they need to drink quite a bit of water to prevent dehydration.

During the day you will find large clusters of bats roosting upside down in a large tree. These communal sites are called ‘camps’ and they usually have been used over and over again each year. You can tell if a particular tree is used for this purpose because, apart from the smell, the trees branches are usually stripped of bark from repetitive use.

Every year between July and October these beautiful little creatures start mating. After just five months the female gives birth. Despite being a newborn, her offspring appears to be quite mature. Its eyes are open and it is aware of things happening around it. It is also covered with fur but even though it looks mature, it is as helpless as any child. For the first few weeks of its life it clings to the breast of its mother where it is able to nurse and journey with its mother when she flies out in search of food. It stays with its mother until about eight months of age and then gets ready to start a life of its own, settling down to breed only after two years of age. Keep an eye out for these gigantic gentle giants the next time you visit Nepal.