Meet the fly-by-night beauties of Panjab University. Not many city residents, even those on the campus, may know about them. That’s because they venture out only after sunset and hang from the tree tops during the day.
Welcome to the Bat Lane of the university, home to the largest known colony of bats in the tricity. If you’re curious to catch a glimpse of these brown and black creatures, known as the Indian flying foxes (scientific name: Pteropus giganteus), take a walk down the lane in front of Ankur Preparatory School and look up the tree tops inhabited by scores of bats.
A bat is a winged mammal that delivers a maximum of two pups in a year. Bats breed between July and October.
“It’s been 40 years that Panjab University has been home to these bats. During one of my evening walks under these trees, only once did I see a baby bat lying on the ground. Otherwise, I have seen them hanging from trees or flying at dusk,” says Kartar Singh, a retired scientific officer of the Zoology department.
The best time for bat sighting is around sunset when they fly out in droves, hunting for food. University zoologist Neelima R Kumar says the bats eat fruits and suck nectar from flowers. Contrary to popular belief, these bats don’t suck blood of animals and humans. She says they are harmless creatures as no incident of their biting humans has been reported. The only complaint is that they damage fruits.
After their night-out, the bats flutter back to their favourite perch on tall trees around dawn. That’s the time they chatter endlessly like birds chirping. During the day, they hang almost motionless from the tree branches, covering their eyes with their wings.
Eucalyptus, kikar and mango are some trees they prefer as their haunts.
“They prefer an isolated area with tall trees. They are rarely found in residential areas but are common in the wilderness of Pinjore and Chhatbir,” says Neelima.
Bats are known to migrate locally or with change of season. Though no study has been done on the fruit bats of Panjab University, these nocturnal mammals weigh about 1 kg and their wing span can be up to 1 metre. The bats are known to live up to 20 years.
“Bats are under-researched animals. There are around 100 species in India,” says Chandigarh-based wildlife writer Vikram Jit Singh.
He adds that the bats can be carriers of diseases but that has not been established so far. The ones found on the campus have been declared vermin (pests) under the Wildlife Act but no nuisance has been reported.