“Why don’t you just kill him?”
“Excuse me? I don’t think so!” The astonished expression on my face makes clear I don’t comprehend what my colleague just said, like he doesn’t understand my surprise. No, there’s no armed conflict going on, and I don’t have to defend myself against an attacker or dangerous animal either. The “him” that has to be killed is a bat. Admittedly a giant one, but still, a bat. I showed my colleague the picture of a bat in one of our trees, and clearly he didn’t like it. I thought the animal was mainly impressive. A great example of a different perspective on things (or animals in this case).
To me, bats are an endangered species that you disturb as little as possible. To protect them, we don’t demolish buildings where bats are living in without attempt to move them to another place. In certain seasons we don’t cut trees to give them a place to rest and we don’t organise festivities with lots of noise or light in an area where there are bats. I find bats special. In Thailand I ran for miles to see bats flying out of their cave at sunset and see them circle above another area a bit later.
In South Sudan these things are a bit different. To start with, bats are not a rare species here. It’s quite common to see them fly around, and there are a lot of different types of them, some really big. People don’t really tend to take good care of animals, not even of pets, so certainly not of flying game. The one time a relatively small bat made the mistake to fly into the office, it was knocked down with a broomstick by our guard. Only after that we discovered that it was a mother-bat, with the little baby still hanging on her breast. They didn’t survive.
To be honest, the big bats do disturb us as well. The ones we have in our trees are really big ones. They don’t use echolocation to orientate, they can see with their eyes, even in the dark. Unfortunately they don’t eat insects (which we would like) but fruit. We have a lot of fruit in our garden, and the bats have discovered that by now. They ate almost all our guavas and most of our custard apples before we could pick them. Worse is that they are fond of mangos as well. I don’t mind them eating them. We have more mangos than we can eat, so whether the bats or the neighbouring kids eat the remainder is fine with me. The problem is that the mangos fall down when the bats are eating them. And they fall hard if they come down from ten metres or more. I got one on my head up till now, but that came from less height and was a soft one, so no damage done yet. I hope it remains that way. We have thought about ways to chase them away, but without success so far. To kill them is not an option, so if anybody has some good suggestions how to deal with them?