What are they?
Bats are the only mammals that are capable of true flight and are essential to our environment and the ecosystem. Of more than 1000 species of bats in the world, at least 25 of them can be found in Singapore. Bats are generally shy and do not attack or show aggression unless they are handled or feel threatened. However, due to human misconceptions and fears, the bat population is fast declining due to destruction of its habitats.
Cave Nectar bat pollinating a banana flower
Fruit bat eating ciku fruit
Important Ecological Roles
Pollinator and seed disperser
Fruit bats are pollinators and seed dispersers and play an important role in regenerating forests and ensuring their survival. The agricultural trade is also supported by bats that aid in the pollination of certain plants, such as durian and petai.
Control of the insect population
Insectivorous bats feed on mosquitoes, beetles, and crickets, thus helping to keep the insect population in check. By feeding on insects, they also help to support agriculture as they reduce the damage the insects cause to crops, as well as decrease the need for pesticides.
Common myths: are they true?
Bats are blind.
On the contrary, all bats have eyes and are able to see. The larger fruit bats have good eyesight but the smaller insectivorous bats have poorer eyesight. The latter are active at night and use echolocation or sonar to locate objects, including prey, i.e. they emit high frequency calls that bounce off objects and help the bat to locate where the object is, its size and other features.
Bats are flying mice.
Bats are not flying mice; they are not even remotely related to rodents.
Bats tend to get tangled in people’s hair.
Bats are able to sense their surroundings very well and will try to avoid you.
Bats are aggressive and will try to bite you.
Bats are generally shy and do not attack or show aggression unless they are handled or feel threatened.
All bats carry rabies.
Less than one percent of bats carry rabies. In fact, no bats have ever been reported to have rabies in Singapore. You should not handle a grounded bat as it may result in a bite in self-defence.
All bats carry the Nipah virus.
Fruit bats are one of the many natural hosts for Nipah virus.
Bat droppings (guano) are poisonous.
Bat guano is a rich fertiliser. Spores of one fungus species that can grow on bat guano can cause histoplasmosis if inhaled. Histoplasmosis occurs naturally in the environment and bat guano is just one of the many ways to be exposed to it.
What to do when I have bats in my property?
Do not be alarmed. Like most wild animals, bats are shy. You are advised to leave bats alone. They will fly away after they have done feeding. If you do come into contact with the bats, you should practise good hygiene by thoroughly washing your hands with soap.
As bats are drawn to fruit trees such as Chiku (Manilkara zapota), especially when they are fruiting, residents are advised to harvest the fruits within their premises. To minimise the occurrence of bats feeding and roosting in their property, lighting can also be installed at areas where bats may roost.
Cave Nectar Bat attracted by Petai flowers
Cave Nectar Bat on Petai flower
We have been studying Singapore's bat populations since 2011. To date, our biosurveillance programmes have not detected any zoonotic diseases, including the Coronavirus Disease 2019 strain in our bats. We will continue to closely monitor the local population.
If you have further queries, please contact us at 1800-476-1600 or through our online feedback form at https://www.avs.gov.sg/feedback.
Photos by Chan Kwok Wai and Nick Baker