Thursday, 4 April 2013

The bats of IISC

It has one of the largest academic campuses in Bangalore and it is a world renowned institution. It has always been known as Bangalore’s pride and India’s centre of excellence.
One of the oldest institutions of science and research in India, it has always produced some of the finest scientists and researchers. Some of India’s top most scientists, researchers and teachers have been associated with the institution.
However, this post is not about the men of science that the Institute has produced or the varied research in the many branches of science that it has carried out. The post will deal with the remarkable flora and fauna of the sprawling premises which can put any small sanctuary or patch of green to shame.
What makes this campus unique is that it is the home of a variety of bats and not merely the common fruit bat that are found in many places in Bangalore. These bats are found in fairly large numbers and thankfully apart from the residents of the institute and a few ornithologists and animal lovers, it is relatively unknown.  
This is the lush green campus of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc)  located in Malleswaram in north Bangalore.
The Institute has a hoary and interesting history and its founding goes back to the times of the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV and JRD Tata.
The Maharaja handed over 150.54 hectares of almost uncoil beauty and wilderness, scrub and farmland to the institute in 1909. Later, the institute got more land and today its stands on 179.28 hectares. The present green of the institute owes much to physicist C. V. Raman, botanist G. H. Krumbigel, atomist Homi Bhabha and scientists B. S. Nirody and C. N. R. Rao.
The IISc campus boasts of a harmonious mix of native, exotic and medicinal-scientific plants and flowers. The vegetation consists of a large number of avenue trees like Delonix regia (May flower), Samanea saman (Rain tree), Swietenia mahogany (Mahogany), Cassia, Tabebuia, Lantana and Ficus benjamina. There are other species of trees too.
The large number of fruits trees and the vast green have encouraged the Fruit Bat to make the campus its home.  Apart from the fruit bat-which is known to ornithologists as Indian short-nosed fruit bat or Cynopterus sphinx sphinx, there are several other species of bats such as the Indian flying fox (Pteropus giganteus giganteus), the Egyptian mouse-tailed bat (Tadarida aeygptica), Pigmy pipistrelle (Pipistrellus mimus), Coromandra pipistrelle (Pipistrellus coromandra), Ceylon pipistrelle (Pipistrellus ceylonicus) and even the Indian false vampire bat (Megaderma lyra).
Of all of them, the Indian short-nosed fruit bat outscores other bats in their numbers and colonies.
The main reason, already enumerated above, for the prevalence of so many species of bats is the availability of  fruit species such as Muntingia calabura (Singapore Cherry), Broussonetia papyrifera (paper mulberry), Mangifera indica (mango), Psidium guajava (guava), Tamarindus indica (tamarind), Santalum album (sandal wood), Manilkara zapota (sapota), Terminalia catappa (Indian almond), Musa paradisiaca (banana) and Syzygium cuminii.
These trees, apart from a host of other fruit bearing greens, provide the perfect locale for these bats. The relative lack of disturbing activities such as construction deforestation and to a certain extent the lack of predators have encourage the bats to colonise near buildings which houses the various departments of the institute.
An inhouse survey of the flora and fauna and other studies have put the number of fruit bats near 200. Similarly, 200 Indian flying fox have been counted.  The rest of the species are insectivorous and their roosting sites are crevices in walls, roof tops, gables and places between pipes. However, these bats are much less in numbers that the fruit bats.
There are  more than 1,200 species of bats and they represent one-fifth of all mammal species. They range from the world's smallest mammal- the tiny bumblebee bat that weighs less than a penny- to one of the largest-giant flying foxes with six-foot wingspans.
In India, 109 species of bats have so far been identified and the IISC is a virtual repository as it has the pest Fruit bat-the smallest to the Flying Fox-the biggest. Care to check out. Then head for the IISc campus. Prior permission to study them or visit would always be better.

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