Bats: small devils that need protection

The typical cave animal is the bat. In many caves in tropical areas, bats form colonies made up by thousands or millions of individuals. The show offered by these animals is one of the most fascinating in nature: at dusk they move about the sky, “drawing” a black snake in search of insects.
This animal has very particular characteristics: it is the only mammal able to fly, with real wings and muscles unlike other “flying” mammals, such as some squirrel species that simply have skin membranes. But their most particular characteristic is the echolocation system: no other animal has such a precise and sophisticated “radar” system, that allows it fly far from the cave entrance and to hunt even very small prey such as insects. When going through small and narrow paths speleologists are used to feeling a light air current and the butterfly like flapping of wings of a bat that flies through the very narrow spaces between their heads and the cave walls without ever even grazing either one!
Their sophisticated hearing system has given them enormous ears (as opposed to the eyes, which are small and underdeveloped even though bats are not completely blind) and the nose is often very strange looking, since it has been modified to emit certain ultrasounds necessary for orientation purposes. This makes them not particularly nice looking which together with the membranous wings and their dark colour, gives them that “devil like” look. In fact man has put out many stupid and unfair theories about bats being evil and dangerous that in the past (and often at present too) has led to to real persecutions towards them. Many people nowadays are still convinced that these animals will get tangled in one’s hair, which is almost impossible, given the highly sophisticated system by which these “little devils” fly and it is more likely that all the noise that we make is going to make them escape faster and a lot more scared than we are! There is another silly belief that bats suck blood: there is only one kind called “vampire”, that belongs to the Desmodus genus, that lives in South America, that generally bites his preys without hurting because his saliva contains anticoagulants as well as a kind of anaesthetic. Contrary to what most people believe, it is a tiny animal just a few centimetres long, that can such a very small amount of blood (unable to kill a person!) and generally attacks quadrupeds, that don’t have hands that can fight it off. The vampire bat has a social behaviour that makes it easier to forgive its feeding habits: since they aren’t able to resist without food for more than a few hours, they help their babies and wounded or sick ones that can’t seek food for themselves, by regurgitating food into their mouths.
Leaving behind legends and popular traditions, bats are in fact very useful animals: in fact they are great insect hunters, which they eat by tons every night. If they are adequately protected, they are very efficient “natural insecticides”, that don’t cost at all, don’t pollute and make our summer nights more interesting with their oscillating flight. Their guano is also a very fine and rich fertilizer. Unfortunately, they are becoming rare animals in industrialized countries because of the large amount of pesticides used, which, by killing their usual preys, end up poisoning our little friend too.

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