Range:

Worldwide, except for extreme arctic and desert regions

Habitat:

Varied and highly diverse, but most bats live in tropical forests

Bats are myth-understood!

There may be more myths about bats than any other animal. Some people think bats are blind bloodsuckers that fly into your hair and carry rabies. In fact, these flying mammals are extremely useful to humans and are gentle, intelligent creatures.

Bats great and small

Bats are divided into two major groups. Megachiroptera or mega bats are medium- to large-size bats. Many eat fruit, pollen, or nectar; some eat small land animals, and some eat fish. They have big eyes and excellent eyesight.

The other major group is Microchiroptera or micro bats, which are smaller bats that eat mostly insects. They use echolocation, detecting sound waves to navigate and identify the flying insects they eat. Included in this group is the smallest bat, the Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, which weighs less than a penny.

Do you know that a bat can be your best friend? They pollinate the world’s fruit-producing plants and eat thousands of mosquitoes in a night.
Out of nearly 1,000 bat species, only 3 feed on blood.
Bats are incredibly beneficial to the world’s ecosystems, and thus to people.
Bats are not blind, although some bats do use echolocation to find their insect meals.
A mother bat can locate her pup by its scent and sound out of millions in a roost.
Some seeds do not sprout unless they have passed through a bat’s digestive system.
Bat wings are laden with blood vessels, which help them heal rapidly if injured.
Bats belong to the taxonomic order Chiroptera, which means “hand wing.”
There are 47 bat species in the US, and 21 of the 23 in San Diego County are insectivorous; the other two species eat nectar.
Vampire bats adopt orphaned young.
Bat finger bones are very flexible, with cartilage that lacks calcium and other minerals nearer the tips so they can bend without splintering.
The hoary bat is the most common bat in the US and is even found in Hawaii.
San Diego County is home to the largest bat in North America, the mastiff bat, which has a wingspan of 22 inches (56 centimeters).
The Kitti’s hog-nosed or bumblebee bat is considered the world’s smallest mammal.
One out of every five mammals in the world is a bat.

Hammer-headed fruit bats were the first bats in our collection, on exhibit at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in 1976. In 1993, the Safari Park welcomed a group of Indian flying foxes, and in 1995, the Zoo became home to 20 Ruwenzori fruit bats.

Today, the Safari Park has a wonderful exhibit for a small breeding colony of Rodrigues fruit bats, an endangered species. Be sure to reserve a little extra time for "hanging around” Nairobi Village and visiting our Bat House! Compactly cute, these little creatures only weigh about 1 pound (0.4 kilograms). Spend some time marveling over their amazing, flexible wings, and 3-foot (1 meter) wingspan, as well as the way they naturally stay suspended by their toes. In fact, upside down is actually "right-side up" for these bats.

Just outside the bat cave is a peek-through photo opportunity where you can pose as a bat. Turn your photo upside down for the finishing touch!

Without active conservation programs, bats face extinction. They have been killed on purpose when people disturbed their caves or hunted them for food or medicine. Bats are the most endangered land mammal in North America. Bats across the eastern US and Canada are losing habitat to human activities and have also fallen prey to a fungal infection called white-nose syndrome. It rousts them during hibernation, leaving them vulnerable to starvation and freezing.

The Rodrigues fruit bat Pteropus rodricensis is also in need of help. This critically endangered species is only found on Rodrigues Island, located about 300 miles east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Most of this bat population is found in a single colony at 3 roost sites they have used for more than 50 years. As local people felled tamarind and mango tress to plant other crops, the favored food of these bats dwindled, as did their numbers. Following a cyclone in 2003, which destroyed habitat and swept bats out to sea, they numbered about 4,000.

Caring for them and breeding them in zoos, such as the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, creates a safety net to keep them for extinction. We hope to establish a small breeding colony of this endangered species, and we've partnered with the Rodrigues Environmental Educator Programme, working with school and community groups to support bat conservation.

Bats do more than earn their keep—insect-eating bats prevent diseases like West Nile virus and save crops from pests; fruit-eaters pollinate plants and disperse seeds while they’re at it. Bat droppings support bacteria useful to humans, including the production of antibiotics. The importance of bats to the environment cannot be exaggerated, and you can help them by creating roosts for them.

Contact a local nature center or park to find out if there is a bat club in your area, or join Bat Conservation International. You can start your own club, help protect local caves and other roosting areas, or build a bat house for your yard or neighborhood.