Bats are the only mammals that
have wings and can truly fly

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Conservation Status:

Near Threatened

  • Live in groups of 100K or more
  • Listed in 2008 as 'near threatened'
  • Gestate for up to 125 days

Quick Facts

Scientific Name

Eidolon helvum


9 to 11 oz.


Up to 30 in. wingspan

Life span

20 to 30 years


Savannas and lowland rain forests




100 to 125 days




Where do bats live?

Bats are found throughout Africa. They primarily live in forests and savannas. Colonies of bats roost together in tall trees.


Tags: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, DRC, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, East Africa, Southern Africa, West/Central Africa, Congo, Limpopo, Regional Parc W, Cameroon View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is a bat?

After rodents, bats are the most numerous mammals on earth. African bats fall into two major categories: large fruit bats and smaller, insect-eating bats, neither of which attacks people. Besides the difference in size between the two types, there is a great variation in the extent and details of the wings, which are formed by the naked membrane of skin that extends from the neck to the wrist and between the fingers, and finally to the tail. Wing shapes vary from species to species. Usually, the swift fliers have long, narrow wings while the slow fliers have broad, rounded ones.

The bones of the hand that support the wing membrane are unusually long. The hind legs are rotated 180 degrees at the hip joint so that the knee flexes backward rather than forward. This arrangement does not hamper the bat when it is perched but does help it push off from the roost for a quick getaway. Bats are very agile even on land, scuttling quickly over objects and squeezing themselves through small openings.

Behavior & Diet

Bats’ food preferences are denoted by their names.

Fruit bats feast largely on fruit. They have large cheek pouches, enabling them to store food. They usually eat overripe fruits, and they may  help reduce fungi and fruit flies in commercial plantations. Bats help crops by eating insects and pests.

They are creatures of the night.

Bats are mostly nocturnal and emerge from their daytime roosts only when the light of day is fading. Fruit bats often roost hanging upside down in the exposed branches of trees. Other species prefer to roost in large colonies in the millions in dark caves. They also live in smaller colonies in crevices, hollow trees, and around houses.

Bats have exceptionally developed senses.

Fruit bats have an acute sense of smell and large eyes that give them good night vision, both of which help them locate fruit and nectar. Insect-eating bats find their way in total darkness by emitting high-pitched squeaks through the nose or mouth as they fly. These sounds bounce off objects and echo back to the bats' ears. This echolocation, or bat sonar, allows them to locate, capture, and eat insects in midair while still detecting and avoiding objects as fine as a human hair. 

They like to hang out with their mothers.

Usually one bat is born a year to an adult female. In some species, the mother carries around the infant for five or six weeks, but in others, the mothers leave them in "nurseries" while they go out to feed. The young are carried by attaching themselves to a teat or to a "false teat" or using their feet to hang on.


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  • Bat AWF

Humans are killing bats.

In some parts of Africa, bats are considered a delicacy. Elsewhere, they are considered pests and killed to prevent the destruction of fruit crops. Bats are also slaughtered because of superstitions and the musky odors and noise emanating from their roosting places.

People are encroaching on bats’ habitats.

Human populations are growing, resulting in expansion of agriculture, settlements, and roads and more previously wild spaces being used.


Our solution to protecting the bat:

  • Expand conservation tourism.

    African Wildlife Foundation brings together communities with private investors to construct lodges benefitting people and wildlife. In Botswana, Ngoma Safari Lodge, a high-end luxury lodge, brings tourism revenue into the local economy, which is then invested back into the community and into continued conservation efforts in the area. The lodge protects wild spaces, allowing the bat, and other wildlife, to have space to live undisturbed.


Will you show the bat your support?

With your help, AWF can continue working on vital initiatives, like expanding conservation tourism, that will give the bat greater, safer habitats. Donate for a cause that will help with wildlife conservation and ensure the near-threatened bat does not become an endangered species. 

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