Wahlberg's epauletted fruit bat is a species of megabat that is found across southern Africa. These bats are brown to tawny in color with white hair patches at the base of the ears. Males are typically darker in coloration than females. These bats are named for erectable epaulettes of hair that form around large scent glands in males only Males are also distinguished from females by air sacs on the neck that may increase the volume of courtship calls. Scent glands are located near the white ear patches in both sexes. Their wings are very broad compared to other bat species.
Wahlberg's epauletted fruit bats occur across southern Africa. Their range extends from Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo and Angola in the west, through the southern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. They are also found in East Africa from Uganda, Kenya and southern Somalia in the north, through Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique into Zimbabwe, eastern and southern South Africa, and Swaziland. These bats live in the tropical moist forest, mangrove forest, shrubland, and savanna habitats. They have also been found in wooded urban areas and roosting in man-made structures.
Wahlberg's epauletted fruit bats are nocturnal creatures. They roost in groups in well-lit open trees, under palm fronds, in dense forests near rivers, under thatched roofs of sheds, and, rarely, in caves. These roosting groups may be 3-100 individuals. Bats typically change roost locations daily or every few days and may fly as far as 4 km (2.5 mi) to feeding areas. Frequent change of roosting sites depends on the ripening of fruit trees and also may be a strategy to decrease predation. Females travel greater distances to feeding areas early in the night while males travel farther closer to dawn. While roosting, bats are usually quiet and do not intrude on each other's space. They like to groom themselves and this may last up to 30 minutes; after that, they usually take off from the roost tree. Most flight occurs in the first three hours of the night. The flight of Wahlberg’s epauletted fruit bat is relatively slow and somewhat clumsy, and they often bump into other individuals and obstacles.
Wahlberg's epauletted fruit bats are frugivorous animals. Their diet mainly consists of figs, guava, and some other fruits. They may also eat leaves and some insects.
Little is known about the mating system in Wahlberg's epauletted fruit bats. During the breeding season, males leave the roost tree, fly to another tree, and make frog-like courtship calls while displaying their erected epaulettes for up to an hour before moving to another tree. Calling males locate themselves approximately 50 m (175 ft) from other males and make 75-120 calls per minute. Females give birth two times per year, the first from February to March and the second from October to December. The first birth period coincides with peak fruit availability in the rainy season. Gestation lasts 5-6 months and one pup is usually born, but, occasionally, two pups may be born. Bats are typically full-grown at 15 months. Females become reproductively mature at 12 months of age. Males attain maturity a bit later but usually before 18 months of age.
There are no major threats to Wahlberg's epauletted fruit bats at present. However, in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa they these bats suffer from loss of habitat because of dune mining and extensive drought.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Wahlberg's epauletted fruit bat total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.