Bat-Survey Lesson No. 42: Don’t Step on any Lions

A glimpse of one of Sesfontein's springs where Theresa and Archie netted for bats (Photo by Theresa Laverty)
A grand old tree stands by one of Sesfontein’s springs where we netted for bats. (Photo by Theresa Laverty)

In Among the Big Predators

While my last week in the field was not my most successful in terms of sheer bat numbers, it at least highlighted the challenges of working in this part of the world.

Two days after netting in Sesfontein, my local field assistant, Archie Gawusab, and I were investigating Awaxas Spring in the Palmwag Concession as a potential netting site. We had walked around the perimeters of two of the three small pools, but I wanted to see the last one before deciding where exactly we would net that night. Less than a minute of walking later, Archie jumps, turns, and comes thrashing through the mud. He had nearly stepped on a lioness resting in the dry, waist-high grass, which explains the low growl I heard when Archie was startled. Understandably, we were a bit jumpy that night even through our only large mammal visitors were two black-backed jackals.

The following evening, I had just released my first bat when a lion vocalized way too close for comfort. There must have been a fresh kill in the area, so we packed up very quickly despite my desire to stay for more bats and more data. We ran into lots of fresh leopard tracks at another site later in the week where we also spooked a spotted hyena in the daylight, so we decided not to net down in that canyon. I finally caught some horseshoe bats in my last week though, which are a group of Old World bats that I suspected to find in the area, but had not been able to catch thus far.

Darling’s horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus darlingi) may not seem like much of a darling, —> Read More