A story about bats helping banana farmers in Malawi
Mostly we hear stories about human wildlife conflict, but just outside Lilongwe these bats are improving a banana farms yield dramatically. We teamed up with the African Bat Conservation charity to document this story as well as the dedicated work they are doing to conserve bat populations in Africa.
The bats at Kumbali Lodge in Lilongwe, Malawi are improving the banana crop yield for a number of reasons. Firstly through there guano which enriches the soil, improves drainage and speeds up the decomposition process. Secondly as bats love eating bugs they were significantly reducing the number of insects that destroy crops. Finally the bats also reduce the need for chemical pesticides and do all of this free of charge. So there is hope that this approach can grow throughout Malawi benfitting both smallholder farmers and bats !
We didn't know much about bats so we learnt a lot such as ...
- Bats are clean animals and rarely spread diseases, unless if eaten or in very unusual circumstances bite. A single adult bat can consume 500 insects including malarial mosquitoes in one night!!
- Malawi has more than 64 species of bats and is a bat hotspot.
- Only 3 of the 1300 species of bats are blood suckers and they all live in Latin America.
- Very few bats will have rabies and there is zero risk if bats are not handled. Bats have a low prevalence rate of contracting rabies in comparison with dogs.
Filming in a banana field in the dark with only head torches for light was interesting and seeing these bats up close was amazing! We captured the ABC team at work putting up mist nets, collecting data and releasing the bats.
If you would like to learn more about bats and the struggles they face due to habitat destruction check out African Bat Conservation here and you can watch the film below !