The Majestic Golden-Crowned Bats: Guardians of the Philippines

At first sight, golden-crowned bats may appear formidable, with their imposing wingspan and eerie appearance. But don’t let their intimidating looks deceive you – these delicate creatures are simply trying to survive in a world challenged by deforestation and hunting.

These remarkable fruit-eating megabats, found exclusively in the Philippines, pose no threat to humans. In fact, they have become an endangered species due to the encroachment of their habitat and illegal hunting.

Debunking the Myth of “Human-Sized” Bats

When viral photographs of golden-crowned bats emerged, they were mistakenly labeled as “human-sized.” This misinterpretation caused confusion and panic among people. However, let us set the record straight – these bats are only as big as a small child, not an average adult human.

With a wingspan of approximately 5-foot-6 and a body length ranging from seven to 11.4 inches, weighing less than 3 pounds, the golden-crowned bat is one of the largest bat species in the world, but still much smaller than humans.

A Nocturnal Herbivore with a Unique Crown

These magnificent bats are nocturnal herbivores, venturing out during the cover of night to forage for roots, fruits, and vegetables. Their heads are adorned with a charming fluffy golden crown, adding a touch of elegance to their appearance.

While other varieties of flying fox megabats can be found in Asia, Africa, and Australia, the golden-crowned flying fox (Acerodon jubatus) is an exclusive resident of the Philippines. These bats often form large colonies with up to 10,000 members, making their homes in the lush Philippine jungles.

Surviving Against All Odds

Giant Golden-crowned Flying Foxes rely on their keen sight and scent to navigate through the air, unlike many other bat species that use echolocation. Through their feeding habits, these bats play a vital role in reforestation by spreading fig seeds throughout the Philippines.

Regrettably, as humans cause more destruction, these bats face an uphill battle. Over 90% of the old-growth forests in the Philippines have been lost, leading to the disappearance of these bats from many of their former roosting locations on various islands, according to Bat Conservation International (BCI).

Since 1986, the golden-crowned bat population has drastically declined, shrinking by 50%. This decline is primarily due to the destruction of their natural habitat and hunting for recreation, commerce, and even personal consumption. Consequently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified them as endangered.

Facing Brutal Threats

Despite the legal protection provided by the Philippine Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001, enforcement remains inadequate. Even in protected zones, these bats face mass killings when hunters shoot them while they sleep. This heartless activity leaves many injured bats clutching onto branches, unable to escape.

Yet, despite the peril that humans pose to their survival, flying foxes do not fear people. They can be spotted in forests near cities or towns, perched on utility poles, or even lingering in inhabited areas where they feel comfortable. These bats have the ability to distinguish between safe and unsafe environments, choosing to move and roost in inaccessible areas, often at altitudes surpassing 1,000 feet.

Intelligence That Surprises

Studies have illuminated the incredible learning and exceptional memory capabilities of these bats, comparable to the intelligence of dogs. In an experiment on operant conditioning, flying fox bats raised by humans quickly learned to pull levers in exchange for juice rewards. Even more astonishingly, when returning to the experimental chamber years later, they immediately removed the levers, knowing they would no longer be rewarded.

Our Call to Action

Golden-crowned flying foxes may possess a distinct physical appearance that some find unsettling or terrifying. Their enlarged eyes, pointed teeth, and leathery wings can evoke feelings of fear or unease. Nonetheless, it is essential to remember that out of the 1,300 species of bats, only three are known to consume human blood. And if we embrace their unique charm, we might just find these golden-crowned bats to be quite endearing!

It is disheartening to witness the massacre of these innocent creatures and the destruction of their habitat due to deforestation. Let us unite in spreading the word about these gentle bats and work together to protect this endangered species. Together, we can make a difference!