Bats & other mammals...

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Africa » Malawi » Central » Lilongwe
February 2nd 2020
Published: February 6th 2020
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Monday morning Remi & I had a cooking lesson with Esther on how to cook nsema. It looks both very simple - nsema flour & water - & very skilled - in knowing just how much to add when! Next time she’s said she’ll talk me through it as I cook...

That afternoon I joined Dom & Esther at an emergency conflict roost at a school in Esther’s village. Sadly due to the superstitions that surround bats the manager of the school was worried that the bats would be killed unless we could relocate them out of the toilet block. We spoke to the village chief who the team had been in contact with about one of their other projects. Whilst all this was going on we had an ever increasing crowd of village kids watching us, who were more interested now the chief was involved. In order not to disturb the bats any more Esther took them a little way away and have them an impromtu lesson on bats and why they are great to have around. Hopefully that, & the fact that the chief is ok with them, will help to keep these bats safe!

After we
Peters's epauletted fruit batPeters's epauletted fruit batPeters's epauletted fruit bat

Epomophorus Crypturus
finished we dropped Esther off home & went to join Angelena, Tom & Remi trapping at the dam in area 10. They’d caught a number of fruit bats, mostly Epomophorus labiatus but as we arrived they had Peters’s epauletted fruit bat E. Crypturus so I got to hold a new species which was excellent! I also got to process a E. Labiatus , I was going to process the next one caught too but she was heavily pregnant so we let her go without processing her. We also saw the shed skin of a spitting cobra which was cool – I’d love to see one here, but at a safe distance!

Tuesday morning we returned to check on the school and then went to do the weekly count of the straw-coloured fruit bats Eidolon helvum. They were still present, but less than 200 individals. The rest of the day was spent on office work, luckily we hadn't got any surveys scheduled for that evening as there was a torrential downpour.

After morning meetings on Wednesday Angelena ran a workshop on ringing and fur clipping in the afternoon. As ABC store
Ringing workshop kitRinging workshop kitRinging workshop kit

Rings to put on & special pliers to remove rings safely
any dead bats they come across for futurestudies, we were able to use some of these to practice on. Now whilst this may sound morbid, it is a lot safer to practice on a dead bat than going straight onto real bats where there is a risk of injury. It was interesting trying out different ring sizes on different species of bat.

Dom, Remi & I went for a sundowner but sadly the clouds came in & were too thick to see the sun set. It was a lovely spot to just chill out though.

Early on Thursday morning Angelena took me to immigration so I could extend my permit as I’ll be in the country 31 days and they are only valid for 30 days. She then made a short detour to show me a tomb bat at a church and pointed out another church that Dom, Remi & I would be passing later. Angelena dropped me off to join Dom & Remi collecting guano from a roost to decrease the smell for the occupants. We then swung by the church where we saw 4 tomb bats and the lovely security guard let us upstairs onto a balcony so we could get a closer look. These bats are very cool as they roost on the outside walls under the eaves so are pretty easy to spot compared with most bats. After that we stopped by another house where the bats in the roost were causing a health issue for the occupant, although he didn’t want them killed he did want them out of his house which is fair enough if they’re making you ill. I am sure the Team will do their best to mitigate the conflict situation.

After lunch I looked over what insect kit we have ready for tomorrow night’s survey at the banana plantation. Then at 4pm I headed out with Carnivore Research Malawi (Brennan & Patrick!) to try trapping the jackal we tracked last week. They set 3 leg holds at the edge of the trash pile where she often goes early in the evening, hoping the trash will mask the smell of the traps. Setting them was interrupted by a deluge of rain & lightening lighting up the whole sky! Luckily it passed over so we could finish setting the holds. Patrick & I headed to the track to see if we could spot her crossing it, but it was rather busy & she must’ve slipped over at another point. She came right by the shelter we were sat in but failed to go into any of the traps. Brennan did track her to what seems to be her favourite hiding spot so we did get a good look at her which was amazing! Also really close views of the bush-babies & hedgehogs whilst we were quietly waiting for her.

Friday we made it to Lilongwe Wildlife Trust to check the bat boxes with Dom, Esther and Remi. Due to the heavy rains part of the trail was flooded so we ended up pretty much walking the whole thing twice but did manage to get to all the boxes. We also saw a few of the animals there including their python. No bats in the boxes but we did find several geckos, a couple of boxes of mice, one with a nest of dormice & one with a lesser bush-baby in! Beautiful place, very glad I finally made it there – even if I did get very hot & tired helping carry the ladder around! We didn’t ge back to camp until nearly 3pm so after a late lunch & a shower I just chilled until the evening bat survey. Sadly the clouds came in & we had to cancel due to the rain & thunder so instead we watched The Sound of Music on the projector.

Saturday morning I made spanish omelette, which went down very well with everyone. After lunch I raked and stacked the cut grass outside the communal living areas, getting rather dusty and sweaty in the process! Meanewhile Angelena & Dom worked on food for the Braai* this evening. Rain came in just around sunset, just as the fire had been lit. We snacked on crisps, guacamole & refried beans whilst waiting for the rain to pass. Luckily it did & with Patrick’s skills the fire was going again before too long. We had ribs, chicken, steak, boerewors (=sausages), burgers & corn on the cob cooked on the fire plus a wonderful range of salads. I drank rather a lot of gin! Afterwards we watched A Milion Ways to Die in the West.

Thanks again to Remi for some of the photos of me!

*BBQ on an open fire.

Additional photos below
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