Bats, Banyans and Bangs

One of the older wooden staff houses in the village on North Island
One of the older wooden staff houses in the village on North Island

When Christine and I arrived on North Island on 12 May 2016, we were loaned a small wooden house in the staff village, similar to one in which we had lived in 2012 during an earlier myna eradication attempt. The house we were given on our arrival in 2016 was the permanent residence of a staff member who had taken some leave and when this staff member returned we had to move. We transferred to a brand new house in a new development in a much quieter corner of the island. Although the older wooden houses are comfortable, this new house is palatial by comparison. It boasts a master bedroom and bathroom, a kitchen with a second double bed and a television (with no signal reception during our stay), and a large veranda with table and chairs. The veranda has an outdoor electrical socket and so the table became my office “desk”. Internet connection is unpredictable but I am sure this will be rectified in time.

Part of the crescent of new houses for staff
Part of the crescent of new houses for staff

The new development contains 10 houses arranged in a crescent. Within the semicircle a lawned area is being prepared, while the outside of the crescent abuts mixed tropical woodland, which our veranda overlooks. This provides us good views of Seychelles Skinks, Seychelles Blue Pigeons, Moorhens and the occasional Seychelles White-eye. During the day we also see Seychelles Fruit Bats, large endemic, somewhat eagle-like mammals. As their name suggests, they eat fruit. They are predominantly nocturnal but many Seychellois believe that they are now much more active during daytime than formerly.

Our veranda with its overhanging banyan tree, in Creole "lafous pti fey"
Our veranda with its overhanging banyan tree, in Creole “lafous pti fey”

Overhanging our house is a large Lafous pti fey (Ficus relfexus sechellensis) tree. In India Ficus trees like this one, that trail aerial roots that eventually reach the ground and produce new trunks, are called Banyans. The figs of “our” Banyan are popular with Seychelles Fruit Bats and indeed fruit bats, along with Giant Tortoises and Seychelles Blue Pigeons, are probably the main dispersers of the seeds of this indigenous species of tree on North Island. Unlike the villas, which have thatched roofs, the staff houses have corrugated iron roofs. The nocturnal foraging of fruit bats in “our” Banyan is manifesting itself by a night-long barrage of bangs as the hard fruits drop on to the roof and bounce down the panels until they “plop” more quietly on to the ground around the house. This is a constant reminder of the importance of the animal life of North Island in the maintenance of this ever-improving island ecosystem, and of the Seychelles Fruit Bat’s important role in helping the island to recover some of its former biodiversity by dispersing the seeds of indigenous plants.

A Seychelles fruit bat Pteropus sechellensis
A Seychelles fruit bat Pteropus sechellensis

 

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