Miag-ao’s fruit bats as tourist attractions?

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Fruit bats hang upside down on the branches of a balete tree at the back of the municipal hall of Miag-ao, Iloilo. The southern municipality is famous for its fortress church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But there is more to the town than just its centuries-old Baroque-style church, according to Mayor Macario Napulan, such as fruit bats. He sees tourism potential in these bats that have caught the fancy of his constituents. IME SORNITO/PN

ILOILO – The southern municipality of Miag-ao is famous for its fortress church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

But there is more to the town than just its centuries-old Baroque-style church, according to Mayor Macario Napulan, such as fruit bats.

He sees tourism potential in these bats that have caught the fancy of his constituents.

A bubog tree in front of the municipal hall and a huge balete tree at the back served as sanctuary of the fruit bats that, according to Napulan, numbered around 10,000.

Every dusk beginning around 6 p.m. the fruit bats would fly to the mountains to hunt for food and return to the bubog and balete trees before dawn of the next day.

Compared to insectivorous bats, fruit bats are relatively large. They are herbivores and rely on their keen senses of sight and smell to locate food.

Napulan plans to build a viewing deck at the back of the municipal hall near the balete tree.

“The bats do not pose danger to us. In fact daw bugal namon nga may ari kami fruit bats,” he said.

Researches have shown that fruit bats are natural reservoirs of several viruses, some of which can be transmitted to humans. Notably, flying foxes can transmit lyssaviruses, which cause rabies.

To his knowledge, according to the mayor, Miag-ao is the only town in Iloilo province with fruit bats in the town center.

Meanwhile, Municipal Tourism Liaison Officer Anthony Selorio said they have sought the help of the Department of Tourism and Department of Environment and Natural Resources on how to protect and conserve the fruit bats.

Fruit bats have important roles as seed dispersers and pollinators. They help spread the seeds in the fruits they eat by discarding them in ejecta pellets or through their guano.

Fruit bats also pollinate a variety of plants./PN

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