Zenker’s fruit bat (Scotonycteris zenkeri)

GenusScotonycteris (1)
SizeHead-body length: 6.5 - 8 cm (2)
Forearm length: 4.7 - 5.6 cm (2)
Weight18 - 27 g (2)

Zenker’s fruit bat is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The little-known Zenker's fruit bat (Scotonycteris zenkerii) is distinguished by its distinctive facial markings consisting of a white spot above the nose, and two additional spots above the eyes (3). The fur on the body ranges from light to dark brown with a paler underside (3).

Zenker's fruit bat has large forward-facing eyes, which give it great depth perception, as well as good daytime and nocturnal vision (3). As this bat does not echolocate, it has simple and relatively small external ears (3). These features are typical of fruit bats, as are the claws that are found on the hind feet which are used predominantly for hanging upside down and climbing (3).

Zenker's fruit bat occurs in western and central Africa (4). Its unconnected range, thought to comprise of five main populations, stretches from Liberia and Guinea east to the Central African Republic, and south to Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1).

Zenker’s fruit bat has been found in primary, undisturbed forest in low-lying and mountainous regions, up to elevations of 1,100 metres (1). Whether it can also persist in secondary forest is not yet known (1).

Thought to be a solitary species, Zenker’s fruit bat roosts singly in a tree and has a small home range (2) (5) (6). Zenker’s fruit bat is, as the name implies, mainly frugivorous (5) (6), consuming small fruits and spitting out the pulp and seeds. Due to this feeding behaviour, fruit bats are important seed dispersers in the forests they inhabit (3). Like other fruit bats, it is likely that Zenker’s fruit bat is most active at dawn and dusk, although it may occasionally move around its tree roost during the day to maintain its internal body temperature (3).

Most fruit bats have two breeding seasons a year (3), but females typically only conceive in one of the seasons. Births are generally synchronised to correspond with the period of greatest food availability (3). Fruit bats usually give birth to one young at a time after a four to six month gestation period (3). 

Fruit bats have several natural predators, which include birds of prey, large reptiles and some carnivorous mammals (4). However, although predators may influence feeding and roosting behaviour, they are seldom a serious threat to fruit bat populations (4).

As it is dependent on primary forest, Zenker's fruit bat is threatened primarily by habitat loss, most likely through logging and mining operations and the conversion of land for agricultural use (1). For example, West African forests have been reduced to 15 percent of what they once were, and the remaining patches continue to be rapidly degraded (7).

Although there are not known to be any direct conservation measures in place for Zenker’s fruit bat, it has been recorded within a number of protected areas (1), such as Atewa Range Forest Reserve (7) and Tai National Park, Côte d'Ivoire (1).

Although Zenker’s fruit bat is not currently believed to be at risk of extinction, due to its wide range and presumed large population, it is suspected that the population is declining (1). More information on the distribution and adaptability of Zenker’s fruit bat is required, which will help clarify the status of this species and inform any future conservation measures should they be needed (1).

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  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
  2. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Balitmore, Maryland.
  3. Kleiman, D.G., Geist, V. and McDade, M.C. (2004) Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia: Volume 13, Mammals II. Gale, Michigan.
  4. Mickleburgh, S.P., Hutson, A.M. and Racey, P.A. (1992) Old World Fruit Bats: An Action Plan for their Conservation. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
  5. Happold, D.C.D. (1987) The Mammals of Nigeria. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Bergmans, W. (1990) Taxonomy and biogeography of African fruit bats (Mammalia, Megachiroptera): 3. The genera Scotonycteris Matschie, 1894, Casinycteris Thomas, 1910, Pteropus Brisson, 1762, and Eidolon Rafinesque, 1815. Beaufortia, 40: 111-177.
  7. Weber, N. and Fahr, J. (2007) A rapid survey of small mammals from the Atewa Range Forest Reserve, Eastern Region, Ghana. In: McCullough, J., Alonso, L.E., Naskrecki, P., Wright, H.E. and Osei-Owusu, Y. (Eds.) A Rapid Biological Assessment of the Atewa Range Forest Reserve, Eastern Ghana. RAP Bulletin of Biological Assessment 47. Conservation International, Arlington, VA.