Would possibly
Kenya’s elusive elephant dung bat be an unidentified relative of Britain’s
acquainted serotine bat Eptesicus serotinus,
as exquisitely painted right here by Archibald Thornburn? (public area)

Bats are an intrinsic insignia of Halloween – so what higher
topic to put in writing about at present than a cryptic crypto-chiropteran, or, in plainer
parlance, a hidden thriller bat?

Whereas cryptozoology’s most well-known thriller bats are
distinguished by their large measurement (viz. the Javanese ahool and African olitiau –
click on right here
to learn all about them on ShukerNature), the instance into account in
this current weblog article of mine is of notably diminutive dimensions. Certainly,
that is the very attribute that permits it to indulge within the weird
day-roosting exercise that has incited such scientific curiosity.


Two of my
many ornithological discipline guides are authored by John G. Williams (© John G.
Williams Property/HarperCollins – reproduced right here on a strictly non-commercial
Honest Use foundation for academic/evaluation functions solely)

On 23 Might 1990, Welsh-born ornithologist John G. Williams (1913-1997),
a famend professional on African avifauna, wrote me an in depth 3-page letter
regarding this thriller bat, as reproduced in full by me additional down right here for
the very first time anyplace, and which offered me with useful background
data. In 1955, Williams was participating within the MacChesney Expedition to
Kenya, from Cornell College’s Laboratory of Ornithology, and in June of that
yr he encountered Terence Adamson, brother of the late George Adamson of Born
fame. Throughout a dialog regarding the wildlife inhabiting the
little-explored forests of Mount Kulal, an extinct volcano simply east of Lake
Turkana in northern Kenya, Adamson casually talked about a peculiar little bat
that had attracted his explicit curiosity – by advantage of its distinctive predilection
for spending its days snugly hid inside dry piles of elephant dung!

Bats are well-known for choosing uncommon hideaways in the course of the
sunlight hours, requisitioning every thing from birds’ nests to aardvark
burrows, even concealing themselves within the centre of rolled banana leaves. Nevertheless, there was no species identified to science that habitually secreted
itself inside the crevices current in deposits of elephant excrement. As a
consequence, Adamson had been keen to find all that he may concerning
this extraordinary creature.


avifauna professional John G. Williams (public area)

He had first encountered one in every of its cryptic variety throughout a stroll
by means of Kenya’s Marsabit Forest (of which he was warden). After idly kicking a
pile of elephant dung mendacity on the trail alongside which he was strolling, he noticed a
small gray creature fly out of it and alight upon a tree close by. Anticipating it
to be nothing extra notable than some type of giant moth, Adamson was very
startled to seek out that it was an exceedingly small bat, with silver
brownish-grey fur, paler upon its underparts. He was particularly stunned by
its tiny measurement – its wingspan was even lower than that of the acquainted
pipistrelles, that are among the many smallest of bats. Sadly, he was solely
capable of observe it for a couple of moments earlier than it took to the air once more and
disappeared, however his curiosity was sufficiently stirred for him to make a
decided effort thereafter to hunt out different specimens of this odd little

Furthermore, Adamson additionally knowledgeable Williams that in his go to
to Mount Kulal he had succeeded in recognizing a second one – unceremoniously
ejected from its diurnal seclusion when he had kicked over a pile of pachyderm
droppings on the base of the Kulal foothills. Not like the primary specimen,
nonetheless, this one had flown away with out making any try to land shut by,
so Adamson had been unable to make any extra observations.


The total
3-page letter concerning the mystifying elephant dung bat that John G. Williams
kindly wrote to me on 23 Might 1990 following an enquiry of mine regarding this
creature (please click on every web page to enlarge for studying functions) (© Dr Karl Shuker/John G. Williams)

As Williams famous in a brief article printed inside the June
1967 challenge of the British wildlife journal Animals (which so far as I
am conscious is the one account printed concerning this coprophilic chiropteran
previous to my very own writings), and which
is what prompted me 23 years later to contact him
, he too grew to become very
eager to espy, and probably even seize, one in every of these elusive denizens of the
dung piles, within the hope of figuring out their species. And so, to his travelling
companions’ nice amusement, he made a particular level thereafter of zealously
felling as many dry mounds of elephant excrement as he may, within the the Katamayu Forest of the Kenya Highlands, and elsewhere too, on the off-chance
that he may conjure forth one in every of these perplexing little bats.

Regardless of such valiant efforts, nonetheless, Williams by no means did reach flushing one forth. Furthermore, to the most effective of my data the
elephant dung bat has nonetheless not been captured, and its identification stays
unresolved. Nevertheless, as he opined in his letter to me above, one species
already identified to science might present the reply.

A thriller
inside a thriller – I’ve seen varied postings of this {photograph} on-line with
claims that it depicts a horn-skinned bat Eptesicus
and was snapped by a Hugh Clark; conversely, on Wikipedia this identical
photograph’s topic is claimed to be an Austrian Tyrol specimen of a
closely-related Eurasian species E.
, the northern bat, and the photograph itself is attributed to somebody
with the Wikipedia username Mnolf who has made it obtainable for public utilization
underneath the
CC BY-SA 3.0 sharing licence (Consequently,
as a result of which bat species this image really depicts and who the image
belongs to are presently unknown to me, I’m reproducing it right here on a strictly
non-commercial Honest Use foundation for academic/evaluation functions solely.)

The species in query is a uncommon vespertilionid micro-bat
known as Eptesicus (Rhinopterus) floweri, formally described
in 1901 by British zoologist William E. de Winton, and at the moment recorded solely
from Mali and Sudan (however probably additionally Niger and Chad, straight sandwiched as
they’re between these two international locations). It’s generally termed the horn-skinned
bat, calling to consideration the tiny attractive excrescences that it bears upon the
higher floor of its limbs and tail. This species resembles the elephant dung
bat generally measurement and color, however an necessary extra cause why Williams
favoured its candidature because the latter creature’s identification is its outstanding
choice for day-roosting inside holes within the floor, particularly among the many
roots of acacia timber.

As he identified to me, this habitat is basically fairly just like
the crevices and cracks current inside dry heaps of elephant dung, therefore it’s
not tough to consider that this species would utilise these helpful sources
of daytime roosting websites if such have been obtainable. And because the Mount Kulal area
of northern Kenya just isn’t solely little-explored but in addition not too far past its
identified distribution vary, this offers additional cause for wanting favourably
upon the horn-skinned bat as a sensible reply to the thriller of the latter
nation’s curious little elephant dung bat.

This ShukerNature weblog article is excerpted and
expanded from my e book The Beasts That Cover
From Man: Looking for The World’s Final Undiscovered Animals

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