Recently, the fascinating island of Samal in Davao del Norte was even more tagged as wondrous when an unusual kind of bat was seen hanging on a fruit tree. Unlike the other common bats, its hair and wings were white while its eyes, nose, mouth, and bones were pink. It was rare indeed. In fact, its rarity made a fleeting widespread in social media.
The said white bat is a Lesser Short-nosed Fruit Bat or 𝐶𝑦𝑛𝑜𝑝𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑢𝑠 𝑏𝑟𝑎𝑐ℎ𝑦𝑜𝑡𝑖𝑠. Like all the other bats, these species are usually brown and black. But due to a genetic anomaly called albinism, its melanin production is altered causing their white appearance. This is due to a series of genetic mutations and is most likely passed from its parents.
Despite the rare color aberration, the albino fruit bats are among the thousands of bat species around the world that hold a significant ecological role. In fact, they are one of the key players in the restoration of our forests that have gone through destruction. Through their affinity for several plants and the ability to disperse seeds in the vast land of our forests, trees can grow again. No wonder they are tagged as the “farmers of the forest”.
As much as these bats rely on plants’ fruits and flowers to survive, around 500 plant species also depend on them to pollinate their flowers. These include bananas, mangoes, peaches, guava, agave, and many other fruit trees.
In Davao, there is no durian as a banner if not for these fruit-eating bats.
Though not endemic in the Philippines, it is among the other oriental countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Southern China, Sulawesi and Borneo where these fruit bats are habituated.
Samal Island is among the areas in Davao Region that has diverse and extensively wealthy natural resources making it the “home” of choice to various wildlife species, including bats.
Bats are among the wildlife species that are protected under the RA 9147 or Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act. It means that if they are intently harmed or killed, it is punishable by law.
Our wildlife species are of great importance to our biodiversity, more so to our survival. If we do not make an unnecessary intervention on them, they sure won’t cause havoc on us either.