Terrifying bats face poaching and deforestation but are actually gentle creatures

The giant golden-crowned bat is a fascinating and unique creature, known for its imposing size and predatory appearance. With a wingspan of about 5-foot-6, almost as wide as Tom Cruise is high, this fruit-eating megabat, which is part of a species native to the Philippines, looks terrifying when it’s flying spread-eagled through the air.

Its skinny furry body emphasizes the enormity of its wings, making it an imposing sight to behold. Additionally, when it’s roosting, it looks like a vampire, cloaked by its rubbery black cape.

Despite its size and appearance, the giant golden-crowned bat is harmless and poses no threat to humans. Unfortunately, humans are a significant threat to the bat population, encroaching on their habitat and illegally hunting them for fun or food, which has led to the species being placed on the list of endangered species.

Viral images of these innocent, endangered creatures sparked both interest and fear in people who were shocked by their size and predatory appearance. However, there was an unfortunate description causing both confusion and fear.

When the first images went viral, they were described as “human-sized” bats – but this is not accurate unless you are using a very generous interpretation and comparing them to a ”small child” rather than an average adult human.

9-year-old boy approaches an unfamiliar police officer and discreetly hands over a note

Wikipedia Commons / Gregg Yan

The giant golden-crowned bat is one of the largest bat species in the world, ranging in size from seven inches to 11.4 inches and weighing less than 3 pounds. The fig-loving bat, with its head wrapped in a furry golden crown, is a nocturnal herbivore, foraging at night for roots, fruits, and vegetables. Although other types of flying fox megabats exist in Asia, Africa, and Australia, the golden-crowned flying fox (Acerodon jubatus) is found exclusively in the jungles of the Philippines, often living in colonies of up to 10,000 members.

During the day, the giant golden-crowned bat can be found snoozing, hanging from its clawed toes, high in the treetops with a bunch of its friends. Sometimes the giant bats will also slumber with its smaller cousins, the large flying fox, which has a wingspan of less than five feet. Unlike many other bats, the giant golden-crowned flying fox doesn’t rely on echolocation, instead using sight and smell to navigate the skies.

9-year-old boy approaches an unfamiliar police officer and discreetly hands over a note

Wikipedia Commons / Luke Marcos Imbong

Tireless in its efforts combating deforestation, the flying fox plays an important role in the multiple forest ecosystem, redistributing fig seeds after it feeds, contributing to reforestation across the Philippines. However, the more the bats work, the more humans destroy. According to Bat Conservation International (BCI), “more than 90 percent of the Philippines’ old-growth forests have been destroyed, and the species has completely disappeared from several of its old roosting sites on multiple islands.”

Destruction of its natural habitat and hunting for sale, sport, and personal consumption are causing a rapid decline in the golden-crowned bat population. The species dropped by 50 percent from 1986 to 2016 and is now listed as endangered on The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

While the bats are protected under the 2001 Philippine Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, the law isn’t enforced. In fact, even though the majority of the animal’s roosts are in protected areas, they are still killed en masse. In a terribly cruel and inhumane practice, hunters shoot the slumbering creatures while roosting, injuring a number of them, many with toes still clutching the branch, preventing them from dropping when they are killed.

Despite humans being a significant threat to the bat population, the flying