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Old World Fruit Bats: Pteropodidae

Indian Flying Fox (pteropus Giganteus): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Named for its physical similarity to a fox, the Indian flying fox has reddish brown fur and the shape of its head is similar to a fox. These bats are one of the largest of all bats and have a wingspan of more than 4 feet (1.2 meters). Its head and body length ranges from 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters). These bats have prominent claws that they use to move through trees and branches.

Geographic range: Indian flying foxes are found throughout Bangladesh, Myanmar, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Habitat: The Indian flying fox lives in tropical forests and swamps, where there is a large body of water nearby.

Diet: Indian flying foxes feed almost exclusively on a variety of fruit. They chew the fruit to obtain the juice. Very soft fruits such as bananas are swallowed, but usually the bat spits out the fruit pulp and seeds once it has extracted all the juice. The Indian flying fox also feeds on the juice and pollen of various tree flowers.

Indian flying foxes fly long distances at night in search of food. (© Stephen Dalton/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Behavior and reproduction: During the day Indian flying foxes roost in large camps in trees. These sites are out in the open. Camps may contain several hundred to several thousand flying foxes. Colony size changes with the seasons, becoming smaller during the summer and increasing during the rainy season. These bats typically keep the same roost sites for many years, and the trees become stripped of bark and leaves over time. During the day the bats are noisy and active. At night they can fly great distances to forage for food.

Within the roost there is often a pecking order within the male population. The more dominant males, those that are larger and stronger, take the best roosting sites.

Indian flying foxes breed from July to October. When ready to give birth, the females will gather in upper branches of their roosting trees. Females have one offspring after a gestation period of 140 to 150 days. The baby will cling to its mother for about two months until it is almost full size.

Indian flying foxes and people: While it once fed mainly on wild fruit, the bat now increasingly feeds on cultivated crops of fruit trees, which has caused many people to consider these bats pests. Farmers have used various methods to get rid of these bats. These foxes are also hunted in parts of Pakistan for its fat, which is used for medicine. People have also cleared the trees from many of the islands where these bats live, causing the population to decline.

Conservation status: The Indian flying fox is not considered threatened by the IUCN. In Pakistan, this species is specifically exempted from protection under wildlife regulation. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsOld World Fruit Bats: Pteropodidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Old World Fruit Bats And People, Conservation Status, Marianas Fruit Bat (pteropus Mariannus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET