Meghalaya Is Home To Many Rare Bat Species

On National Endangered Species Day, read about the endangered bats of Meghalaya
Mawmluh Cave in Cherrapunji, Meghalaya. Photo credits Shutterstock
Mawmluh Cave in Cherrapunji, Meghalaya. Photo credits Shutterstock

During the pre-independence era, the British government demonstrated a keen interest in documenting and surveying the rare and endemic species found in Meghalaya. Thankfully, this passion for exploration has been carried forward by modern-day scientists who tirelessly conduct extensive surveys in the stunning Jaintia and Garo Hills regions. Among the vast diversity of wildlife found in this area, the bats of Meghalaya have managed to capture the hearts of both the local community and the state.

Wroughton's free-tailed bat
One such bat species that garnered considerable focus was Wroughton's free-tailed bat. At one point, this species faced a dire situation, with only approximately 200 individuals remaining worldwide. Found in damp cave systems of Meghalaya, their survival was threatened by factors such as mining activities, hunting, and the detrimental effects of pesticide usage. The excessive use of pesticides not only harmed the bats directly but also led to a decline in their primary food source, insects. However, thanks to the unwavering dedication of scientists and the collaborative efforts of government-led public service announcements, the bat population began its journey to recovery.

In Pynurkba, scientists have conducted informative sessions to raise awareness about the significance of the survival of Wroughton's free-tailed bat and its integral role within the ecosystem of Meghalaya.

Another New Species
In 2001, Dr Saikia made an intriguing discovery and published findings on a new bat species known as the bamboo-dwelling bat. This species was found in the Lailad area adjacent to the Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary. The discovery gained recognition when it was featured in the latest edition of the Swiss journal Revue Suisse de Zoologie. Earlier, the bamboo-dwelling bat had only been reported in select locations in Southern China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar.

After this, researchers have put forth a captivating theory suggesting a recent common origin between the Eudiscopus bats found in Vietnam and their counterparts dwelling in Meghalaya. It is believed that all existing bat populations expanded from the same region following the growth of man-made bamboo forests. By analyzing the high-frequency echolocation calls of Meghalayan bat species, scientists have unveiled a fascinating adaptation. These bats possess a call structure perfectly suited for navigating cluttered environments such as bamboo groves.

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