More bats and a bit of local culture!

A week after we arrived, Remi & I finally found time to go to an open bank to exchange money to Kwacha & be able to pay back to others what we had borrowed! After lunch, Esther gave us Chichewa language lessons – the first but a recap for the others. This is a language that sounds beautiful.

Monday night we brought bats and yellow bats (Scotophilus dinganii) mosquito nets from several buildings near the camp. Tom & I have to stand in the exit hole holding the net for what feels like before some bats have flown in! One bat managed to escape completely from each location but we caught a total of 8 which was the minimum that Lena needed for her project to look at wing morphology. After dinner we stuck with the batty theme by watching Batman Forever!

Tuesday morning I went out for a walk with Lena & Remi & even though it was getting hot. Most of my day was spent in meetings or repairing the mist net before going out to trap a golf course, but unfortunately the rain made that impossible so we went to the bar for a drink before returning home for dinner.

I managed to wake up perfectly on Wednesday morning and arrived in the kitchen just in time for Tom to fry me some eggs for breakfast! Then go back to repairing the mist net and start thinking about my volunteer article for the bulletin. That night we went to trap in a private park in Lilongwe. We got two nets and two harp traps set at sunset and were immediately flooded with yellow bats (Scotophilus dinganii) & dark winged house bats (Scotoecus hirundo)! We got so much that we had to close the net and release some bats without being processed to ensure that they were not kept too long in the bag. After we processed all these bats, we reopened the nets and captured several more species, as well as three Epomophorus labiatus fruit bats, 1 shoot, and 1 hawkmoth head-death – it was very exciting for me when I held and processed my first fruit bat. ! I am also rather happy that I managed to get hawkmoth from the net without injury. To end this successful night I also had to see the house snake return to camp. I have one of these cute pets as at home, so I love seeing it in the wild.

On Thursday we had to postpone some work due to political protests in the city so I joined Dom to visit some houses with a suspected bat nest. Most of the work done by African Bat Conservation is to work with homeowners (& other buildings) to find ways to ensure that bats do not cause problems without endangering bats in the process. It’s sad to drive around the city to see a lot of exterminator ads listing bats as one of the species they eradicated so it’s good that ABC here provides a humane mitigation solution. Their work also involves many outreach education schemes to teach people all the positives of owning a bat.

We were very fortunate when we left the last house to see Gule Wamkulu pass through masked members of the secret cultural community. Since this was Sohpie’s last night here, we went to a local Ethiopian restaurant and shared a number of dishes there – it was very, very delicious!

Luckily Friday remained hot & dry, so I managed to wash my clothes & dry in a day. In the morning, Remi & I joined Tom & Angelena using a straw-colored fruit bat, Eidolon helvum, and it was amazing to see that the number dropped dramatically with only more than 1000 bats neatly arranged and many empty trees. Angelena also collected faecal samples from under the tree so they could see what bats had eaten throughout the season.

Lunch is chili with nsema cooked by Esther – a traditional Malawian carbohydrate made from corn flour. He pointed out is a traditional way to eat it with your fingers. It naturally has a little taste but is good for adding other flavors. I have to ask him to teach me how to cook!

That night we went that night to another private house on the other side of town to deliver bats out of the house. As well as the two nets that covered the hole we set two harp traps. Only one of the yellow bats (Scotophilus dinganii) who came out of the house was caught, the other was too nimble and managed to slip through the gap between the nets. One harp trap also caught two small vesper bats and one fruit bat