Common Name: African Straw-colored fruit bat
Scientific Name: Eidolon helvum
Distribution: Mauritania, Senegal, and Gambia to Ethiopia to South Africa; SW Arabia and Oman; islands in the Gulf of Guinea and off E Africa.
Status: IUCN 2008 – Near Threatened (NT).
The Straw-colored fruit bat is the most widely distributed of all the African fruit bats and is quite common throughout its range from the southwestern Arabian Peninsula, forest and savanna zones of Africa (south of the Sahara) to the island nation of Madagascar. Two subspecies have been recognized.
The Straw-colored fruit bat got its name from its silky yellowish or straw colored pelage. The species can reach a length of 5-9 in (143-215 mm), with a tail length less than 1 in (4-20 mm). Its wingspan can reach a length of up to 2.5 ft (762 mm). The sexes are much the same in color and size, adult males and females weighing in the range 8-12 oz (230-350 g). Straw-colored fruit bats reach sexual maturity at 18 months of age and have a gestation period of 120 days after which a single pup is produced.
Like many other megabats, they prefer to eat various fruits, but have been known to eat blossoms, and the young shoots of silk-cotton trees. This species has an unusual habit of chewing into soft wood to obtain moisture.
The Straw-colored fruit bat’s wings are long and narrow and are adapted for long flights. These bats have been seen flying at great heights when exiting large roosts. Their prime habitats are forested regions and its migrations carry it throughout all but the desert areas of the African continent. It can be found in elevations up to 6,500 ft (2000 m). It is gregarious and prefers to roost in tall trees during the day. Straw colored fruit bats roost in large colonies in trees stripped off their leaves. Every November, over 8 million Straw-colored fruit bats migrate to Kasanka National Park (Zambia) forming the largest mammal migration in the world.