August 12, 2021
The Banana and the Bat
- as seen by -Natalie Ingle
I think I pay attention to little, underappreciated aspects of nature more than most people—Wildlife Conservation Society colleagues aside—but before this third lockdown in Kigali, I had no idea how a banana flower operated or that it was a favorite food source of bats.
It turns out that strange pendulous bud hanging from a bunch of bananas actually functions like a magical, time-release onion case (my own non-scientific term). Each afternoon, one leathery purple “petal” peels open to reveal a swath of small yellow-white flowers that bees swarm to until dusk. Come morning, that petal and its spent flowers fall off and the pendant bloom appears locked tight again.
But in the magical hour just after sunset, the flowers are visited by an adorably earnest new caller—a fuzzy, puppy-faced epauletted fruit bat. Bear hugging the blossom with its wings, this mid-sized African bat laps up a bit of nectar before careening off to the next bloom. It’s a brief love affair but, while smaller insectivores swoop around me and their bigger straw-colored cousins soar above, my camera and I share a moment with the banana and its bat.