My World of Bats - with Daniel Hargreaves

In October we hosted our first Zoom talk of the 2021-22 season, given by Daniel Hargreaves, local bat enthusiast, expert and conservation champion, We had previously discussed whether to resume face-to-face talks but agreed it was prudent not to do so until Covid infection rates dropped to safer levels. Over 45 screens joined the talk, which was educational, entertaining, and above all inspiring.

Daniel’s catchphrase is that he is “batty about bats”, and his CV is extraordinary, especially considering all his work is voluntary & unpaid. He is a member of the Bat Conservation Trust, has worked with the BBC, with captive and wild bats, and is a co-founder of “Trinibats”, based in Trinidad and Tobago.

There are currently 1435 species of bat listed globally (plus many more in the fossil record, now extinct), with just 17 species breeding in the UK. First appearing in the fossil record 50-55 million years ago, they probably evolved gliding before true powered flight. The only flying mammals on the planet, they later evolved echolocation as a means of locating and catching flying insect prey in the dark.

Photo: Greater False Vampire bat (Lyroderma lyra) from Asia - not to be confused with Vampire bats, see below.

As Daniel explained, the diversity of bats is astonishing, and his detailed and enthusiastic talk gave a brief snapshot of this. He described the size range: from the 2g Kitti’s hog-nosed bat from Thailand, to the 180g naked bulldog bat, from Borneo to Thailand, with a wingspan of 65 cm! He outlined their adaptive radiation: fishing bats, frog-eating bats, wrinkle-faced bats, painted bats, nectar-eating bats, and carnivorous bats, which eat birds, rodents, and even other bats!

Natterer's bat (Myotis nattereri) 
- a UK bat
Pallas's Long-tongued bat (Glossophaga soricina)
- drinking sugar water in Costa Rica
Pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus)
- drinking while flying in Arizona


He also exploded some of the myths surrounding Vampire bats, of which there are just 3 species, only 1 of which feeds on mammalian blood, typically that of livestock, occasionally humans. Weighing in at 40g, and found in Central and South America, they have movement sensors in their face to prevent trampling, and heat detectors in their nose, 7ºC cooler than their body, which can detect blood vessels of their prey. They pierce skin with ultra-sharp teeth, and their saliva contains an anticoagulant, enabling them to consume about 2 teaspoons full of blood at a time. Although they don’t seriously harm their prey, they can transmit deadly rabies, for which they are now more feared.

Daniel founded Trinibats in 2011 with scientist Geoffrey Gomes, since then persuading the Trinidad Government and population that not all bats are vampire bats or vermin, but worthy of protection and conservation. In fact, there are 69 bats species on these Caribbean islands, many of which are important pollinators and seed dispersers, and he organises annual tours for Eco-tourists, bringing in revenue to the islands and making it even more worthwhile that the bats are protected.
Answering questions after the talk, Daniel explained how he was inspired by Merlin Tuttle, world renowned bat expert and pioneer in bat photography, and this led to his interest in both the mammals and their photography.  Some of Daniel’s images were breathtaking. He warned that, in the UK, the main predator of bats is the domestic cat, but they are also predated by owls, sparrowhawks, hobbys and even herring gulls. Although mainly nocturnal, bats are not blind; indeed flying foxes - fruit-eating bats - have excellent eyesight. Bats are easier to train than dogs, using a feed and click stimulus. In 2013, Daniel was “hand stunt double” for Sir David Attenborough holding a bat, a highlight of Daniel’s career!

Dave Sage
All bat photos: Copyright Daniel Hargreaves
Check out Daniel's Youtube channel HERE for some of his videos.
Youtube video recording of the talk
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