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Samal Island’s world-famous bats getting drunk with ‘tuba’

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Davao - Samal Island’s world-famous bats are no longer content with just pollinating durian trees all over the Davao Region and overflowing this bustling southern city with mountains of durian fruit all year round.

This time, probably so drunk with their popularity after gaining global recognition as the biggest known population (nearly two million) of fruit bats in the world, male bats here at Samal Island were found getting restive -- and getting drunk.

Returning at early dawn to their huge undergound caves in the sprawling Monfort hillside property, male bats had been found to be stone drunk from drinking too much tuba or coconut wine from Davao’s coconut plantations.

“These drunk male bats walk around with wobbly feet, swaying and tumbling over as they try to hang on our mango trees,” says Norma Monfort founder and president of the Monfort Bat Cave and Conservation Foundation and owner of the Monfort property with the famous bat caves, home of the two million fruit bats.

The bats usually start flying out of the Monfort caves at dusk just after the sun sets behind the Mt. Apo mountain ranges, according to Monfort, to pollinate fruit trees, specially durian, in Davao and surrounding provinces.

After a whole night of pollinating spree, both the male and female bats start making their way home to the Monfort caves in Samal Island (officially known as Island Garden City of Samal).

Monfort said hundreds of thousands of noisy bats can be seen swarming around the five large mango trees waiting for their turn to get inside the huge underground caverns.

“We can easily distinguish the male from the female bats because of their wild rowdy behavior as they make their way into the caves,” Monfort told the Philippines News Agency (PNA).

Sipping the sap from coconut trees had been a long practice of the male bats, according to Monfort, and their “drunken behavior” studied for sometime but this has not affected their global conservation efforts to preserve the natural sanctuary of the bats at Samal Island.

Fully supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of Population of European Bats (EUROBATS) have decided together to declare the years 2011 and 2012 as the “Year of the Bats” (YOTB).

The two-year bat campaign seeks to highlight the world’s only flying mammal and provide funding and technical support for bat conservationists all over the world.

Here in Samal Island, the Monfort-run bat foundation has marked February 8 as a kick-off activity for the “Year of the Bats” by putting together a bat-watching event called “Full Moon Together with the Bats”.

The date coincides with the first full moon of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, according to Monfort, which makes it “a fitting climax” to the two-week long celebration of the Chinese New Year which magnifies the bat as a symbol of long life, wealth and health in the Chinese culture.

“We’re inviting people to watch the bats fly out of the caves during the full moon at early evening here at Samal. It’s a wonder to behold. You’ll never see anything like it,” says Monfort who was recently awarded a gold Hero Medal by the US-based Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund for her efforts to save the two million bats living in huge caverns beneath her ten-hectare hillside property in Samal.

Impressed by Monfort’s efforts to make the Philippines the first country to kick off the 2011 Year of the Bats, the secretariats of UNEP and EUROBATS in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia have followed her footsteps and have organized similar bat activities in their own countries.

By PNA




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