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Rarely seen creatures of Africa – The Short-eared trident bat

By August 27, 2015No Comments
With an impressive 1 240 breeds of bats worldwide they make up to 20% of all classified mammal species around the globe. 
Short-eared trident bat
Short-eared trident bat. 

In South Africa alone there are 56 different kinds of bats found. Bats break up into two distinctive groups, fruits bats and insect bats, with insect bats being higher in numbers of species.

Bats are small, shy mammals that take to the skies under the cover of the night in search of food. They are gentle wild animals with fur and forelimbs that form webbed wings.
These unique animals are not blind despite the myth surrounding them. They can all see with their small, black eyes and some even see extremely well.

The short-eared trident bat, also known as a Percival trident bat, is 7 cm in length with a wingspan reaching 15 cm and weighing a mere 5 grams. These small bats have a 3 prolonged trident nose between their beady eyes and small roundish ears sometimes hidden by long fur. Their faces are a whitish-yellow colour with a white to pale yellow underneath and wings dark in colour.
Lesser horseshoe bats roosting. 


Bats live in groups together called colonies. They roost in tight clusters hanging from the ceiling of caves or mine shafts. These winged animals live together ranging in small numbers to numbers in the hundreds.

Short-eared trident bats are found in the North east of vibrant South Africa in the provinces of North West, Gauteng and Mmpulanga. They are also found elsewhere in Zaire, Kenya, Botswana and other southern and central African countries.

They are very clean animals, grooming themselves thoroughly when not eating, sleeping or

attending to pups.  


Short-eared trident bats fall into the group of insect eating bats. Some bats can eat up to 600 bugs in just one hour!

A bat in flight. 

Bats have excellent hearing and use sonar calls referred to as echolocation. The short-eared trident bat uses their sonar calls to locate their bug meals and have the highest recorded echolocation frequency of all bats at 210 kHz. An average human hears a frequency of up to 20 kHz.


Female bats give birth to live bat babies called pups usually once a year. Pups are born pink and hairless with tiny wings. Mothers take care of their pups feeding them milk, teaching them skills to survive and giving them rides on their backs while in flight. Baby bats start learning to fly from 3 weeks of age and by 6 weeks old are able to take flight searching for food like the adult bats.

Short-eared trident bat
Short-eared trident bat.

Mother bats arrange a maternity colony together, finding a safe cave or mine shaft, where they can safely care for their pups. The mother will remember exactly where she left her pup amongst all the other bat babies.

Did you know?

Bats have been known to live up to 40 years.