National Geographic : 1982 Jan
One bat in particular became my star per former. He would step onto my hand any time, would fly to my hand whenever I called, and seemed to know when to expect a reward for a good performance. Without his consistent cooperation, many of the pictures on these pages would not have been possi ble. Having enjoyed such a privileged rela tionship, I find it hard not to be sentimental about these remarkable creatures. Simply because bats are nocturnal and timid, most people misunderstand, fear, and persecute them. Many species face pos sible extinction unless these misguided atti tudes are reversed. Over the years I have gained numerous new insights into the lives and behavior of bats. They are highly respected and very much liked by those of us who know them. Despite myths to the contrary, they are not blind, they carefully groom themselves, they rarely transmit diseases or parasites to man, and they do not become entangled in people's hair. They are rarely rabid, and even then are seldom aggressive. When peo ple are bitten, it is usually because they have picked up a sick individual that bites in self-defense. Bats found where they can be picked up should be assumed to be sick and left alone. Most bats are highly beneficial. Tropical bats probably were the original pollinators or seed dispersers for a wide variety of eco nomically important fruits and spices such as bananas, avocados, mangoes, guavas, breadfruit, pepper, and cloves. Bats also consume countless millions of insects night ly, including such pests as mosquitoes. As our studies of interactions between bats and frogs illustrate, there is a great deal more to be learned about these sophisti cated creatures and how they interact in the world around us. Certainly such exciting animals deserve much more respect and consideration. [ Dip and sip. For safety's sake, to avoid such predatorsas owls and opossums, a frog-eatingbat drinks on the wing. To take this remarkable photograph, the authorspent many midnight vigils waitingfor his charges to make their eye-blink swoops.