Fascinating Flying Mammals of Morocco

Among Morocco’s many spectacular natural features are four main cave systems – Friouato Caves, Jebel Irhoud, Taforalt Caves and Caves of Hercules. The Caves of Hercules are partly man-made, as in days gone by locals cut millstones from the cave’s walls, thereby making it larger. It also has two entrances, one facing out to sea and one on land. The caves are linked to the legend of Hercules with the belief being that he slept in there before carrying out the task of obtaining golden apples from the Hesperides Garden. The days of great legends and myths are past, and today visitors to the caves of Morocco are more likely to come across large number of bats resting in the daylight hours, and going out at dusk to catch their next meal. As the majority of bats are insect eaters, they play a crucial role in keeping insect populations in check.

With their forelimbs developed into wings, bats are the only mammals in the world that are able to fly. Some other mammals, such as flying squirrels, are able to glide, but they are not able to fly. There are more than 1,200 species of bats worldwide, with around thirty species being found in Morocco. As its name would suggest, the lesser mouse-tailed bat (Rhinopoma hardwickii) has a long, slender tail, whereas most bats do not have tails. In addition to being found in dry caves, these small bats can be found in gardens, orchards, grasslands and oases, where they will roost in crevices in rocks and even in wells. They are adapted to cope with hot, arid conditions and are active year round. When flying, they are sometimes mistaken for birds as they flutter and glide, giving the appearance of rising and falling.

Trident nose-leaf bats (Asellia tridens) live in some of the world’s hottest regions, with their range stretching from Morocco through to northern India. The sub-species A.t.murriana is able to thrive in hot desert areas where no other bats can survive. They roost in caves, buildings and other sheltered areas. The distinguishing feature of the trident nose-leaf bat is its trident-shaped nose-leaves, with the central one being very pointed. Its diet consists of insects and it is very adept at catching beetles, moths, butterflies and flies, thereby helping to control insect populations.

With so much to see and do when exploring Morocco, it may be easy to overlook these little nocturnal creatures, but nonetheless they play an important role in the ecosystems in which they live.