- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Chiroptera
- Family: Pteropodidae
- Genus: Pteropus
- Species: rodricensis
What does the bat say? The Rodrigues flying fox is also called the Rodrigues fruit bat. Named for the island in the Indian Ocean where they originated, these highly social little mammals—like other bats—are no danger to humans and are, in fact, critically endangered themselves. They also serve as vital pollinators and seed dispersers in their ecosystem—after eating fruit, they poop out seeds. And because they fly from tree to tree, they carry pollen with them.
Sky puppies. The name “flying fox” comes from the fruit bats’ dog-like face, with their bright eyes and pointy, expressive ears. They have small bodies, and their lightweight bones make it easier for them to fly. Their fur is woolly—golden colored on the head, neck, shoulders, and sometimes back. Their wings are black and not furred. Their wings are actually thin skin stretched between the fingers and thumb of each hand. Their long fingers act as wing supports.
HABITAT AND DIET
The bigger, the better. The bats require tall, mature trees in large, contiguous tracts of forest for roosting and breeding. These forests also provide protection from frequent storms such as cyclones, which can easily blow down smaller stands of trees and sweep bats out to sea.
Fruit, glorious fruit. Mangos, rose-apples, figs, and tamarinds are just some of the fruits Rodrigues flying foxes seek out. Like many other fruit bats, they squeeze the juices and soft pulp out of the fruit, rarely consuming the harder fleshy parts. Pollen is also a possible nutrition source. At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the Rodrigues fruit bats are fed nectar and a variety of juicy fruits, including oranges, pears, grapes, and watermelon; as well as bananas and a bat pellet (to supplement their nutritional needs).
Coming home to roost. Rodrigues flying foxes are sociable, and they hang out together (upside down) in rainforest trees. They roost in large groups during the day. Before this species' numbers were threatened by habitat destruction, storms, and hunting, some of those groups could number 500 or more members.
Sunrise, sunset. Rodrigues flying foxes are most active at dawn, at dusk, and at night.
Oh, rats! While habitat destruction is a constant threat, Rodrigues flying foxes face predators such as rats and mynah birds. People also hunt them for food. Because of fear that a natural disaster such as a hurricane could wipe out the small population of Rodrigues flying foxes on their native island, conservationists initially brought the Rodrigues flying fox into protective care. About 80 percent of the population is part of a single colony on Rodrigues Island.
Scents and sensibilities As frugivores, Rodrigues flying foxes do not need echolocation to find moving food (such as insects). Instead, they have good vision and sense of smell, which allows them to find a meal. Since scent marking is used to designate territories, olfactory communication also must play a role in fruit bat society.
Girls, girls, girls. A dominant male will select and breed with a harem of 8 to 10 females, while nonbreeding males roost elsewhere. Like most bats, Rodrigues flying foxes reproduce slowly, with females bearing only one pup per year. The babies are born fully furred, with their eyes open. They are alert, but their wings are underdeveloped. After two to three months, pups are flying and fully weaned, although they still roost with their mothers. They do not become fully independent until 6 to 12 months of age.
To support bat conservation, we have partnered with the Rodrigues Environmental Educator Programme. Our colony has successfully bred Rodrigues flying fox pups—and we performed a successful C-section birth in 2017.
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