Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox
Giant fruit bat, Golden-capped fruit bat
The Giant golden-crowned flying fox are native and endemic exclusively to Philippines. Otherwise called the Golden-capped Fruit Bat, this animal is the largest and one of the rarest bats around the globe, currently classified as Endangered. Moreover, this animal is threatened with extinction as a result of continuous poaching and destruction of its forest habitat. These massive, giant bats belong to the group of megabats. There is very little information on the life expectancy of this species, although captive individuals are known to live as long as 23 years, while those in the wild are believed to live less - up to 15 years.
These bats are found in Philippines, the Palawan region as well as the Batanes and Babuyan island groups. Preferred habitat of Giant golden-crowned flying foxes is large, primary or mature secondary forest.
Habits and lifestyle
The Giant golden-crowned flying fox is generally a nocturnal creature, foraging at night. This animal can fly a huge distance of up to 40 km per night when looking for food. During the season when fruits are available, these animals often gather in large colonies of up to 150,000 individuals, typically in areas with an abundance of fruits. Living in these large aggregations, individuals can warm up and escape predators. They not only form colonies of conspecifics, but also occur in mixed concentrations with the Malayan flying foxes. The Giant golden-crowned flying foxes rest in the characteristic upside down position. The well-developed eyesight helps them navigate environment as well as detect food, as opposed to other bats, which mainly rely on echolocation.
cloud, colony, flock
Diet and nutrition
These bats are known to maintain frugivorous diet, particularly favoring fruits of fig (Ficus) trees.
The Giant golden-crowned flying foxes typically occur in isolated populations and thus the reproductive system and behavior of this species are poorly known. However, it is known that other flying fox species exhibit polygynous mating system, in which males mate with many females during a breeding season. These bats are thought to have two breeding seasons per year, but each female produces offspring only once a year. Neither the exact time of breeding season nor duration of pregnancy are known. Females generally give birth in April-June, yielding a single baby, which clings to the fur of its mother with its claws. The mother will care for its pup, lactating as well as fanning with her wing to keep the baby cool. Female bats are ready to produce offspring of their own at 2 years old.
births occur in April-June
One of the biggest threats to the population of these bats is loss of their natural habitat, associated with logging and farming projects. This factor is compounded by their dependence on fig trees, which grow exclusively in old-growth forests. The Golden-crowned flying foxes suffer from hunting for food and animal trade. Currently, there are 3 large roost sites, where these bats are protected from hunting. However, when going beyond these roosts to find food, they often become victims of hunters.
According to the IUCN Red List, the rough estimate of the total Giant golden-crowned flying foxes’ population is around 10,000 individuals (and probably no more than 20,000 individuals). Currently, this species is classified as Endangered (EN) and its numbers continue to decrease.
Due to their frugivorous diet, these animals act as important seed dispersers of some fruiting plants, which they do through their faces. This also makes them key pollinators of their range, benefiting the ecosystem of their habitat.
Fun facts for kids
- Personal care and grooming are important parts of their lives. Each individual spends considerable amount of time grooming itself with water. During this procedure, the Giant golden-crowned flying foxes scoop water from ponds and other nearby water bodies with their large wings and then spread it all over their bodies to clean themselves.
- The Giant golden-crowned flying foxes are considered mythical animals in South America and are referred to by locals as “Chupacabras”. The latter word is associated with a Puerto-Rican myth about a cryptic creature. Currently, this myth is very popular beyond Puerto Rico: in Mexico, Peru and other countries of Central and South America.
- The Golden-crowned flying foxes are so called due to having a golden-brown head crown as well as their similarity with foxes.
- The Golden-crowned flying foxes give off a characteristic odor and thus may use olfactory communication, although they don't seem to have scent glands.
- According to DNA profiling, these animals are genetically related to foxes.
- These animals possess enormously large wings, which they occasionally wrap around their bodies. Due to this unusual feature, these bats are otherwise known as 'Foxes with Wings'.