On the Ninth Day of Grub, your zoo gift will help to feed…Nine Fruit Bats Flying, Eight Giraffes a Galloping, Seven Snakes a Slithering, Six Mole-rats Mining, Five Golden Frogs, Four Calling Birds, Three Wild Dogs, Two Grizzly Bears, and Darwin the Cassowary! CLICK HERE to read them all!
At the Houston Zoo, Straw-colored fruit bats (Eidolon helvum) can be seen in the Bat Cave area of the Carruth Natural Encounters building. These are one of the largest species of fruit bats in the world and the Houston Zoo has 24 of them on exhibit! Just as their name implies, Straw-colored fruit bats love to eat fruit. In fact, at the zoo, they eat 15lbs of fruit every day! In the wild, these African bats roost high up in treetops during the day and at night fill the sky as they forage for figs and other types of fruit.
When you stop at the bat exhibit, look for bats with their mouths full of the 3 different types of fruit they get each day. Their favorite fruits to eat are grapes, bananas and cantaloupe, but they also have mango, apple, pear, papaya and honey-dew melon. When a bat finds a tasty piece of fruit, it takes the biggest bite it possibly can and swallows all the juice from the fruit as it chews. When there is no more juice, the bat spits the remaining pulp, seeds and skin out onto the floor. In the wild, this habit is crucial to the forests’ health. The pulp and skin from the fruit decays on the forest floor, which helps enrich the soil, and by spitting seeds out, bats help more plants grow. If a bat happens to swallow a seed, it will pass, undamaged, through the bat’s digestive tract and, eventually, be deposited on the ground in one of the world’s best fertilizers: bat feces. In this way, the bats ensure that there will always be a plentiful supply of their preferred foods.
You may not know it, but many different species of bats help us get some of the foods we like to eat too. Bats are important pollinators. Fruit bats, like the ones in Natural Encounters, help spread pollen from one plant to another while foraging for fruit in the tree tops. Without bats, a lot of things we like to eat would be much more difficult to produce. Foods like avocado, peaches, carob and many others are all pollinated by different types of bats.
Like many other animals, wild bat populations are suffering due to things like habitat loss, disease, and even the pet trade. To learn more about native Texas bat populations and how you can help bats worldwide, visit Bat Conservation International or stop by the bat cave in the Carruth Natural Encounters Building.
Written by Kamryn Suttinger
Give the Gift of Grub for the holidays to help feed our fruit bats and the rest of the Zoo’s 6,000 animal residents!
Our thanks to TXU Energy for generously matching the first $25,000 in donations this year!