Highly Commended in the International Category of the 2015 BBC Wildlife Blogger Awards

Bats in My Belfry

I like bats. No, don't turn away. Let me explain why. Ever since I taught a young bat to fly twenty years ago, they hold a special place in my heart. Demonio showed me there's more to bats than meets the eye; you can read his story here.


A decade later, when I lived in North Luangwa National Park, in Zambia, another bat found its way into my hands. I was working at my laptop in broad daylight when:


"I heard a soft plop. At first I thought it was the husk of a spider. But I picked up a newborn bat instead, dead, umbilical cord still attached to its pinched belly. The bones of its meagre chest were translucent, tender. Its sheer, crumpled wings spread like an inky film on my skin. The hind limbs splayed, thumb nails like pale splinters. But it was the limp, lolling head that moved me. The naked face, whisker pores like pin pricks. Blind, dark eyes. A maze-like nose, the folds and crevices damp and delicate... A gremlin. So ugly. So perfect."


(First published in Issue 5 of Unbroken).


And a couple of months ago, a pair of bats set up home in an outdoor bathroom of our house. One day there was one hanging above a window:


The next, there were two:

I left the window open, hoping they'd make themselves comfortable, come and go as they pleased, but when I checked on the third day, they had gone. Maybe the kids and I showed a bit too much interest in them.


I'm sure a bat will feature again in my life, though. Some time, some place...

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© 2014-2020, Jessica Groenendijk