Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bring on the Bats!

The weekly Wednesday night walk has been a staple of the forest program here at GVI for a long time. A foray into Shimoni forest after nightfall is always a unique experience, revealing sights never seen by day – among them bush babies, sleeping colobus, and of course, one all-important African Golden Cat sighting. But recently we thought we might try something different for a Wednesday evening, and look at what creatures might be hiding right here in (or under) our own village…

At the south end of Shimoni lie a labyrinth of caves – once used to house slaves awaiting shipment to Zanzibar, they’re now home to 5 species of bat, including one endangered species (Hildegarde’s Tomb Bat). These animals play an important role in the ecosystem of Shimoni Forest, but up to now GVI haven’t looked into them closely – clearly, it was time to change that!
So we ventured to the cave openings, about a five minute walk from the house, just before sundown. There were 9 of us, and we split into groups to stake out a few different spots. My group settled in and waited eagerly… and the minutes passed…

We saw a bat here and there, or a flash of grey that we assumed must be a bat. It was nice, but not quite the mass exodus into the night that we were expecting. We were about ready to head home disappointed, when we got a call from Lucas – his group had picked the right spot, and was getting bombarded with bats. So we scurried over, and here’s a taste of what we saw:

Not only was this an awesome experience, it also provided us with a lot of opportunities for further research. Now that we know where and when the bats make their way out of the caves, we can start looking at specific things like species ID-ing, finding out relative abundances of different species, and whether different species use separate openings or head to the forest at different times – all valuable scientific questions that haven’t been investigated here before. Not too bad for a Wednesday evening’s work!