Know your islands
Bats are the only native mammals in the Cayman Islands.
There are nine distinct species of bats here and one endemic subspecies found only on Grand Cayman.
All are beneficial to the environment and rarely interact with people. Most of our bats live in caves or in dense foliage.
Of the 10 kinds of bats that live here, only two eat fruit. This information is sourced from www.caymanwildlife.org and the information sheets on the National Trust website written by Lois Blumenthal and photographs were provided by Wray Banker and Courtney Platt, www.courtneyplatt.com .
Many people think that a bat is just a bat, but that is akin to saying that a bird is ‘just a bird’. Cayman Islands Bats are not all the same and the Vampire Bat is not in Cayman.
Some of our bats are very rare, and some are important to the control of insects, including crop pests like moths and beetles, as well as mosquitoes.
Even fruit bats, though sometimes a nuisance to farmers, are actually eating up to 25 per cent insects found on fruit crops, so they may be preventing more damage than they inflict.
Fruit bats also clean up overripe fruits in the wild and on farms which prevents them from becoming breeding grounds for even more destructive insects.
When fruit bats are eliminated from an ecosystem, crop damage from pests becomes worse.
Eptesicus fuscus ssp. nov.
These bats are found on Grand Cayman and nowhere else in the world. They are much like their Cayman Brac cousins, but even smaller. In fact, they are the smallest of all the Brown Bat subspecies.
They once lived on Cayman Brac but are now extinct there.
These bats are truly a national treasure. Scientists are concerned because this new subspecies seems to be becoming rarer. Protection of caves and other roosting sites is very important. These bats are sometimes found in roof spaces, roosting with Velvety Free-tailed Bats, and can be attracted to bat houses.
The females give birth in June and the males form bachelor colonies and live separately until the young are weaned and flying. They are very agile, like their Cayman Brac cousins, they can swoop, dart, and catch insects flying among the trees. This wonderful and unique bat must not be allowed to become extinct.
Caribbean Fruit Bat
Artibeus jamaicensis parvipes
These bats, also called Jamaican Fruit Bats or Common Fruit Bats, are our largest bats, but are still quite small with a torso about the size of small child’s fist.
They have a large nose leaf, rounded ears, large very broad wings and no tail.
They feed mainly on wild fruits and enjoy the Christmas palm, yellow mastic, cocoplum, wild calabash, ginep, bitter plum, and pepper cinnamon trees.
They do not stay on the tree to eat the fruits, but pluck them and fly to a feeding roost in another tree.
In this way, they spread seeds through woodlands, helping to keep the vegetation varied and healthy. They are also valuable because they eat large amounts of wild fruit which would otherwise rot and provide breeding grounds for fruit flies and fungus. They roost in small groups (harems, nursery and bachelor colonies) and are never found in attic spaces or bat houses.
They often eat Indian almonds, and piles of chewed almond seeds can be found below feeding roosts all over the islands and in the entrances to some caves. The Cayman Islands subspecies lives in Cuba, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. Other subspecies are found from Mexico to Peru and N. Argentina, Trinidad, the Antilles and the Bahamas.
If you find a hurt bat call 917-BIRD!
Bats are not birds, but this phone number is for all injured wildlife. Thanks to a donation from Cable & Wireless, we have an easy-to-remember cell phone number. The Wildlife Hotline will be answered seven days a week by volunteers who will help you to deal with wildlife problems or questions. Please do not call after 9pm or before 7am except for emergencies.
Last week’s answer: The Central Mangrove Wetland covers a total of 8,500 acres.
Trivia question: How many days does it take for Green Sea Turtles to hatch?
Look for the answer in next week’s feature!
The weekly column from the National Trust is submitted by Marnie Laing, Education Programs Manager at the Trust. The Trust can be contacted at 949-0121 or via email at [email protected]