Bats of Seychelles

The Seychelles are well known for their white sandy beaches, fancy hotels with spa and bright blue seas. Some of you may have visited this country for diving or even birdwatching.

 

A more unusual reason to visit this country is for its bats.

 

Looking for the bats of Seychelles is precisely what I did (mostly…).

 

This country is formed of no fewer than 115 islands (covering a mere 460 km2) in the Western Indian Ocean. It is located about 2000km north of Madagascar.

 

The archipelago is home to a great number of endemic species such as the Aldabra Tortoise, the Giant Bronze Gecko, the Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher and… three species of bats!

 

The first and most common species is the Seychelles Flying Fox (Pteropus seychellensis). As its name clearly (does not) indicates, it isn’t endemic to the Seychelles. It is actually present in the Seychelles, on Comores and on Mafia island, off Tanzania. The latter population may well be a distinct species waiting to be formally described though…

In the Seychelles, the Flying Fox is common everywhere and can be seen at pretty much anytime, though they are most active at sunset (and loud at night…). There are a number of roosts on Mahé as well as one on both Praslin and La Digue.

Seeing this species should not be a problem for anyone visiting the Seychelles.

Toby, or a story of a successful bat rescue

Let me tell you about one Flying Fox in particular. His name, Toby.

While looking for the Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher on La Digue, we saw a bat falling off a tree. Worried, I went to check on it. The bat was hanging from the buttress roots and looked in trouble. Unfortunately, there was no one I could call, especially on a Sunday. Not wanting to put myself at risk by not wearing appropriate protection, my actions were somewhat limited. But what I could do, I did. I made sure Toby had water and we got a perfectly ripe banana (bought for a whopping SCR 2.00, so about 10p). Seeing him chew on that banana was the cutest thing ever!

Things kept getting better and better for Toby and he eventually flew off, joining the rest of the group high up in the trees. Hopefully, he hasn’t grown an addiction for bananas…

The Seychelles Flying Fox isn’t the only Flying Fox of the archipelago. On the atoll of Aldabra, some 1,000km from Mahe, lives another species. This time the naming is appropriate as the Aldabra Flying Fox is endemic to the atoll, as are many species there. This atoll hosts an incredibly unique biodiversity.

Unfortunately, access is now extremely difficult, and expensive. For now, this atoll and its endemics will remain dream material for me.

I like to leave the best for last. The best of the bats of Seychelles. And Coleura seychellensis, the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat, really is the BEST. It is one of the rarest species of mammals in the World and also the rarest species of bat in the World! The remaining population only comprises 30 to 100 individuals spread across a handful of roosts on Mahé and Silhouette.

This species is very sensitive to disturbance so no roosts were entered, but I did look for potential roosts. Finding a new one would be a great news for the species…

However, being a microbat, it echolocates. Thanks to the handy dandy bat recorder I brought with me, I was able to detect its presence in the vicinity of one of the known roosts. We were even able to see it thanks to the presence of street lights they seem to use to hunt (and a torch too).

 

If you’re headed to the Seychelles and wish to record / see Coleura, I would be happy to give you directions.

Other notable wildlife observed during my trip to the Seychelles

 

Mammals

On top of the bats of Seychelles, I saw a handful of other species. Mostly exotic species though.

Tenrec :  When walking in the forest before sunrise and when driving at night

Rats : Unfortunately quite common

Spinner Dolphin : Twice, during boat trips on the way to Shark Bank (about halfway between Beau Vallon and the island of Silhouette)

 

Birds

Seychelles Swiflet: Occasionally seen flying over the Morne Seychelles NP and on La Digue

Seychelles Kestrel: A couple of times in the NP and a pair seem to be breeding in a church on La Digue

Seychelles White-eye: With a bit of patience, it can be seen around the Mission Garden Centre on Mahé

Waders (Crab Plover, Sandplovers, Terek Sandpiper, etc) can be seen on the mudflats around -4.656, 55.485 at the east end of Victoria, near the airport.

The Bulbul, Sunbird and Blue Pigeon are common.

 

Seychelles Black Parrot: We saw it quite easily in Vallée de Mai on Praslin but they’re not always that reliably seen

Seychelles Paradise flycatcher: Easily seen in La Veuve reserve on La Digue as well as the surrounding areas.

My other sightings can be found on observation.org

One thought on “Bats of Seychelles

  1. Superb piece. I visited the Seychelles in the late 1980’s and obviously saw the Flying Foxes. But I also saw a small ‘standard’ bat (as in not a big flying fox) and never knew what species it was until now. Thanks

    1. Thank you for your comment, Eric. I’m glad you now know what you saw. It’s a great species, sadly at high risk of extinction. Cheers

  2. Thanks for the great information on the bats of Seychelles. I was there in 2014 and stayed at the Sans Souci guest house above Victoria. Every evening many Seychelles Flying Foxes fly by at eye level–one of the best bat viewing experiences one can have in absolute comfort. We also had the good fortune to go to Aldabra and see the endemic Aldabra Flying Fox.

    1. I’m very happy to hear all this. And a little jealous about the Aldabra FF… I’m glad you enjoyed the daily evening bat shows. They are quite something.

  3. Hi Nils, that’s a great project for which I wish you all the best and loads of interesting bat encounters!

    It would be wonderful if you could share bat observations with iNaturalist so that your records contribute as valuable data points to research and conservation. There are several bat projects running under the umbrella of iNaturalist such as
    http://www.inaturalist.org/projects/afribats
    http://www.inaturalist.org/projects/global-bat-watch

    iNaturalist offers apps with which you can record observations while you’re travelling, and you can also upload photos via the website.

    Hope to see you there as well!

    1. Hi Jakob!
      Thank you so much for your enthusiasm, it really means a lot coming from you!
      I was considering recording my sightings on iNaturalist, in addition to observation.org that I am used to using on a daily basis.
      I have already made an account and added the app to my phone.

      See you on iNaturalist then!

      Thanks again for your support.

      Best wishes,

      Nils

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