Master of the Night – Zoie
Masters of the Night: The True Story of Bats
SPECIES: African straw-colored fruit bat
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Eidolon helvum
ADDRESS: Bat Conservation International (BCI), P.O. Box 162603, Austin, Texas 78716-2603, (512) 327-9721
BORN: In captivity at Gullett Elementary School, Austin, Texas; December 1991
WEIGHT: Approximately a quarter of a pound (0.25 lbs.)
WING SPAN: 23″ (when fully grown, may reach from 29″ to 37″)
PRESENT POSITION: Zoie is currently the official “Goodwill Ambassador” for Bat Conservation International. She accompanies Dr. Merlin Tuttle and other BCI staff on a variety of public appearances. She lives with other captive fruit bats at the BCI offices in Austin, Texas.
NATURAL HABITAT: Straw-colored fruit bats roost in tall trees in the forest and savannas of Central Africa, south of the Sahara Desert. They have a preference for areas near noisy villages and towns; they also favor islands on lakes, rivers and the ocean.
CHARACTERISTICS: The straw-colored fruit bat lives in colonies of ten to hundreds of thousands of bats. When they migrate, they break up into smaller colonies. Their migration season may last for several months out of the year and span great distances from their primary roost. Since food supplies are still abundant when these bats migrate, some experts think the bats travel to teach their young how to hunt for food.
MATING: Mating occurs April through June. The young are born December through late February. The mothers carry their babies in flight until they are six weeks of age, at which time they slowly begin to forage on their own.
FAVORITE FOOD: A variety of juicy fruits, wild figs and pollens from night-blooming flowers, including the blooms of the eucalyptus tree. These fruit bats have pouches in their cheeks for carrying fruit to different roosts to eat. They suck all the juice out of the fruit and disperse the pulp and seeds.
Straw-colored flying foxes are the only animals known to disperse the seeds of the iroke tree, whose timber has a commercial value of millions of dollars annually. In one night, a single colony may disperse the seeds of nearly a half million pounds of iroke and other fruits throughout the surrounding forest.
TRAVEL: Zoie, having taken over the duties of Zuri*, has made numerous trips throughout the U.S. and has left a positive impression of bats on all she has met along the way.
*Zuri, a male straw-colored flying fox, was BCI’s first goodwill ambassador. He was one of several bats Dr. Tuttle brought back with him from a 1984 trip to Kenya. Zuri appeared on numerous national television programs, including “The Tonight Show” and “Good Morning America” and on the front pages of major newspapers and magazines. He has entered a well earned retirement at the San Antonio Zoo.
In West Africa bats carry 90-98 percent of the seeds of “pioneer plants” that initiate plant re-growth on cleared land. These hardy trees and shrubs grow rapidly, soon attracting other mammals and birds that in turn bring seeds of different plants. Without bats, this cycle of rain forest regeneration might never begin.
Worldwide, there are more than 250 species of fruit bats that either pollinate the flowers or disperse the seeds of well over 500 species of tropical trees and shrubs. Zoie and her cousins play a very important role in maintaining the diversity of life as we know it.
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Source: Evergreen Exhibitions