From Running Water to No Water: In Search of Desert Bats

A glimpse of aboveground running desert water in the Hoarusib River (Photo by Theresa Laverty)
A glimpse of aboveground running desert water in the Hoarusib River of northwestern Namibia (Photo by Theresa Laverty)

After three weeks of traveling through northwestern Namibia in search of water where I net for bats, I now have a much better appreciation for the term “desert oasis.”

Driving north on the heavily corrugated gravel road from Sesfontein to Puros last week, we passed through some extremely arid areas. Upon reaching Puros, however, we reached the beginning of a flowing section of the Hoarusib River—a stretch of water about 7.5 miles (12 km) in length—accompanied by the wealth of biodiversity you find around desert water.

The field team, Young Explorer Theresa Laverty and field assistant Archie Gawusab, stop for a lunch break under an Ana tree. (Photo by Theresa Laverty)

For three nights, field assistant Archie Gawusab and I netted along this stretch of ankle-deep water. We caught a diversity of vesper bats and molossids (bats with long, free-hanging tails), while thankfully avoiding the capture of a confused Hartmann’s mountain zebra just outside of Puros. Now that the moon is waning, the skies are finally getting darker, landing us more bats in the net.

A little vesper bat appears to smile just before releasing back into the night (Photo by Theresa Laverty)
A little vesper bat appears to smile just before we release it back into the night. (Photo by Theresa Laverty)

Given the permanence of water in this area, quite a few cattle wandered in and out of the riverbed canyon each day among the springbok, oryx, and elephants. It’s rare to find livestock so far down these rivers, but the flowing water and riparian vegetation supports them in a region that receives on average about three inches of rainfall per year.

<img src="http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/files/2015/05/IMG_7730-600×400.jpg" alt="Cattle make their —> Read More

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