Sleeping out in a small wadi off the Dibba to Masafi road during the May Eid holiday, we had a fleeting glimpse of a medium-sized bat as it swooped to collect insects that our presence had probably attracted. It made only one pass over us and as it was almost dark we were unable to get a clear image to positively identify it. Indeed, the identification of bats is extremely difficult unless one has the specimen in the hand.
Bats, which are the only mammals capable of true flight, belong to the order CHIROPTERA, of which there are over one thousand species world wide. We were quite safe with our bat as the only two blood-sucking bats are found in South America, the others eating insects, frogs, fish, fruit or a combination thereof. The largest bats have a wingspan up to 2.5 metres and the smallest only 7 cms. The wings consist of a very fine but strong membrane which is attached to enlarged forelimbs, the sides of the body, hind limbs and often including the tail.
Bats are nocturnal, usually flying as dusk falls and they cover large areas in search of food. During daylight hours they rest either singly or in colonies in caves or crevices in rocks. Some have been found in the ruins of old forts and houses in the UAE as well as in caves and crannies in such hills as Jebel Hafit.
The survival of bats world wide is threatened by the indiscriminate use of pesticides, wood preservatives and the destruction of their roosting areas. The economic and ecological importance of bats is difficult to assess, but it is known that insectivorous bats devour insects equivalent to their body weight daily. It is certain that the majority of bats do far more good than harm to human beings.
Two sub-orders of bats occur in this part of Arabia:
1. MEGACHIROPTERA (Fruit-eating bats), containing one family;
A. Family Pteropodidae
a) Rousettus aegyptiacus - Egyptian Fruit Bat
Recorded at Ras al Khaimah
2. MICROCHIROPTERA with about twenty living families world wide is represented locally by five families;
A. Family Rhinopomatidae - Mouse-tailed Bats
a) Rhinopoma muscatellum - Muscat Mouse-tailed Bat
Recorded at Al Ain/Buraimi and Ras al Khaimah
B. Family Emballonuridae - Sheath-tailed Bats
a) Taphozous nudiventris - Naked-bellied Tomb Bat
Recorded at Jebel Faiyah, Dubai and Das Island
C. Family Rhinolophidae - Horseshoe Bats
a) Rhinolophus clivosus - Arabian Horseshoe Bat
Recorded in Eastern Saudi Arabia
b) Rhinolophus blasii
Recorded along the Batinah coast of Oman
D. Family Hipposideridae -Leaf-nosed Bats
a) Asellia tridens - Trident Leaf-nosed Bat
b) Trianops persicus - Persian Leaf-nosed Bat
Recorded at Al Ain/Buraimi
E. Family Vespertilionida - Vespertilionid Bats
a) Pipistrellus kuhli - Kuhle's Pipistrelle Bat
Recorded as widespread in all Arabian Gulf countries
b) Otonycteris hemprichi - Hemprich's Long-eared Bat
Recorded at Ras al Khaimah
i) Naked-bellied Tomb Bat (Taphozous nudiventris) 21/12/86. Found dead beneath exhaust stack at new Power Station on Das Island. Collector: David Heath. Identified by Dr.David L.Harrison. (See Bulletin 34, p.12)
ii) Naked-bellied Tomb Bat Early 1987. Found at Al Ghurair Centre, Dubai (dead). Collector: Stuart Hodgson (Dubai Natural History Group). Tentatively identified as above and retained in ENHG(AD) collection.
For further reading and a key to the bats of the Arabian Gulf see "Mammals of the Arabian Gulf" by Dr. David L. Harrison, published by George Allen & Unwin (copy in the Group's library), or the more comprehensive and expensive "The Mammals of Arabia", Vol. I by the same author and published in three volumes by Ernest Benn Ltd. (Only Vol. III is in the Group's library).