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Flight of the fruit bats

December 20, 2016

Bats get a bad rap as bloodsuckers and disease carriers. But they are actually invaluable to ecosystems. In Zambia, one group is trying to save a tiny forest that is home to 10 million of them.

Filmstill Sambia Flughunde
Image: DW

Central Africa's fruit bat migration

Project goal: Protect the forest in which the fruit bats live, keep people out and prevent fires. Fires are rare, but when they do occur they are often started by poachers who set areas alight in the dry season to flush out their targets.
Project volume: Kasanka National Park is around 400 square kilometers (154 square miles). The bat forest in which the animals spend their daytime hours is 1 kilometer by 400 meters.
Financing: Currently around $200,000 (191,000 euros) annually from tourism and donations.  

Each year, 10 million fruit bats make their way from the Congo to descend upon a tiny forest barely half a square kilometer in size. It's a breathtaking spectacle - and the largest mammal migration on earth.

The fruit bats play an invaluable role in Kasanka National Park in northern Zambia - for instance, they scatter seeds and pollinate blossoms. The fruit of the forest attracts animals, and if the forest were to disappear, it would be a deadly loss for them.

Environmentalists are trying to protect the habitat. One of their main tools is education. Children in particular don't know about the local animals and are afraid of the bats, not least because they are suspected vectors of ebola.

Expanding ecotourism is also on the agenda, as the fruit bats entice tourists and researchers from all over the world, who also bring money to the project.

A film by Jürgen Schneide

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