Malawi has been highlighted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as of key importance to bat conservation in Africa, having high endemism and species diversity. However, Malawi has also been highlighted as an area of concern for bat populations due to increasing agricultural pressures on the environment, and high levels of deforestation.
Not much is known about African bats, but a total of 116 bat species have been recorded within Southern Africa and Malawi is estimated to have over 64 species.
ABC have already discovered a new bat species for Malawi previously never recorded here, and have also recorded two other species that have only been found in a handful of locations in southern Africa.
Click on the bat families below to find species profiles for bats that have been recorded by ABC in Malawi.
Sheath tailed bats
Emballonurids are immediately recognisable by the particular configuration of the tail, which is only partly enclosed by the tail membrane proximally, but independent of the membrane distally. Hence, the tail appears to protrude out from above the tail membrane.
All members of this family also have large eyes and a plain face without nose leafs. The wings of Emballonuridae are typically long and pointed – an adaptation for swift flight.
Hipposideros is a large genus found throughout the Old World. The noseleaf of this genus is simple and elliptical or three-pronged in shape, and is widely used in identification of its species.
The noseleaf plays an important role in the emission of the echolocation signal.
All members of this family have broad wings, allowing them to manoeuvre through cluttered environments such as dense vegetation.
Leaf nosed bats
Free tailed bats
Members of this family are immediately recognisable by their 'free-tail' which extends beyond the end of the tail membrane, and their wrinkled upper lip (except in the larger Tadarida species) giving them a bulldog appearance.
Molossids can scuttle with surprising speed, forward and backward. They have conspicuous combs of curved hairs along the outer margins of the toes which appear to have a sensory function, and are perhaps also used in grooming. Pheromones also are important in their social behaviour. Each species has a distinct, strong, often aromatic scent.
The majority of Molossids share adaptations for crevice roosting – including stout, sturdy legs, and the specialised sensory hairs on the body and muzzle and ear margins. They often reveal their presence in daytime by strident squeaks. The wings are characteristically long and pointed – adaptations for agile, swift flight.