When I first saw the Flying Foxes of Cambodia, I was overwhelmed by their size and strength in numbers. Being bats, they sleep during the day but as it starts getting dark in Siem Reap, they all wake up and need to feed. With thousands of them living in the trees of Royal Independence Gardens, I could only imagine what kind of a blood bath it must be when they all get munchies. Afterall, that’s what bats feed on, right – blood. At least that’s what bats are known for? But if these Cambodian Flying Foxes feed on blood of living creatures, there must be a major carnage happening somewhere each night. There are thousands of them in those trees and they are huge. Or could it be that they don’t feed on blood? But if not, then what do flying foxes eat?
I first wondered about what Flying Foxes ate when I strolled through the Royal Independence Gardens with Ha. I was on a mission to take some pictures of them flying during daytime hours and as I kept being focused on how many of them there are, I couldn’t help but search for signs of blood bath these presumed blood suckers cause in the neighborhood every night. And I really didn’t have to go far to stumble across dozens of dead birds scattered across the greens of the gardens.
From the beginning, I was pretty darn sure that all those dead birds were the work of flying foxes but when I noticed the sales of live birds taking place behind the Preah Ang Chek Preah Ang Chorm Shrine and saw what happens to those birds after release, I have quickly ditched my initial guess. No, those dead birds in the garden were not the doing of Fruit Bats, those died because of selfish human behavior.
In my continuous search for answers to the “What Do Flying Foxes Eat?” question, I realized that perhaps there is a reason why Flying Foxes are also known as Fruit Bats. Could the word “Fruit” just before “Bats” signify what these flying foxes eat? It sure could and it does. Flying Foxes don’t feed on blood of living creatures. Flying Foxes eat fruit, hence the name “Fruit Bats”. Jungles of South East Asia are full of mango trees, banana trees, guava trees or papaya trees. Fruits from these trees are a staple of their diet.
When night falls on Siem Reap and you look up, you will see swarms of Flying Foxes filling up the sky as they are migrating towards their feasting grounds. There are endless clouds of them flying against the darkening sky. Now I understad that this is their daily (or should I say nightly?) rite. They don’t sleep where they eat. They prefer to fly the distance to munch on fresh fruit and then fly the same distance back to spend the day sleeping atop the trees of downtown Siem Reap. They don’t care about insects, birds or other living creatures. That’s perhaps the reason why none of the locals heed them in any way. Despite their intimidating size, they are harmless to humans. They are harmless to all living things. The only people who don’t like Flying Foxes are farmers who are not amazed when their fruit gets eaten overnight. And because of their size, one flying fox can down several fruits in one sitting. But it’s the numbers of bats in each colony that makes them a nightmare for farmers. It doesn’t matter how many fruit trees you have, if it gets marked as feeding grounds by a colony of flying foxes, you could find your trees stripped of all fruit overnight.
I wanted to take Ha to the Royal Independence Gardens – my favourite place in Siem Reap. I really like it there so I thought she’d enjoy it too. And since it was a beautiful day I was not gonna use to go to Angkor Wat, I thought of at least taking my camera with a telephoto lens to the gardens and try to snap some pictures of the Fruit Bats Flying so the day doesn’t go to waste entirely.
I fully realized that taking pictures of the Fruit Bats flying during the day was not gonna be easy, but I still wanted to give it a try. Bats are nocturnal animals so coming to them during daytime would mean catching them in the middle of sleep but with a little bit of patience, I may be able to see some of them flying. From what I have noticed, Fruit Bats are pretty vicious with one another and fight a lot when they are supposed to sleep. As a result, one is bound to take flight and move from one branch of the tree to another. That was gonna be my opportunity which I really didn’t want to pass on so I can complement the pictures of Fruit Bats sleeping with pictures of them flying.
Obviously, because of how high in the trees they dwell, it was gonna be difficult to get a decent close up photo even with a telephoto lens mounted on the camera. Armed with a great deal of patience, I’ve explained to Ha that the gardens are truly beautiful and the shriek of Fruit Bats magical so we were gonna stick around and enjoy the heat while I would keep my camera on standby to snap a photo should any of the sleeping flying foxes get awaken and take flight. The pictures in the gallery below capture these beautiful, huge bats flying against the blue Cambodian sky:
When I first came to the Royal independence Gardens during the day to take pictures of Flying Foxes, I had wide angle lens with me. That proved contra productive as flying foxes dwell high up in tall trees making it impossible to get a decent close up done. So I ended up only taking pictures of trees where these Fruit Bats dwell (their natural habitat in Siem Reap, Cambodia) and went back to the guesthouse to mount my telephoto lens on so I can zoom in a bit on them huge bats. Below is the picture gallery of those Flying Fox Bats.
Granted, Flying Foxes are bats so they sleep during the day. Being nocturnal animals, they get active to feed after dusk and that’s when the shriek around the Royal independence Gardens heavily intensifies. However, the presence of Flying Foxes is apparent even during daytime hours and one can see them fighting or having sex on virtually every visit no matter what time of day it is. Bat fights are kind of funny because the opponents would still be in a position in which they sleep – upside down, but they would spread their huge wings wide to intimidate the opponent and would do their best to outshriek each other. There are thousands of them in Siem Reap so there is a bat fight on any given moment during the day.
Without further ado, this is the Flying Fox Bats Picture Gallery showing the blood suckers sleeping during the day: