Phnom Sampeau (Ship Mountain) is a limestone mountain along National Road 57, about 12 kilometres (7 miles) from the city of Battambang in Cambodia. The mountain is 100 metres (328 feet) high with three natural caves, famous for its colonies of over one million Asian Wrinkle-Lipped Free-Tailed Bats. There are 13 known colonies in Cambodia with a total of 6.5 million bats.
The Asian Wrinkle-Lipped Free-Tailed Bat (Chaerephon plicatus) is a flying mammal in the Molossidae family. Plicatus means ‘folded’ because the upper lips and the ears of the bat look folded and wrinkled.
The Asian Wrinkle-Lipped Free-Tailed Bat is small with soft, short, dark brown fur. It has large wrinkled ears which are conjoined (joined together) at the top of its head. It has a blunt snout (nose) and small, round brown eyes.
It measures up to 7 centimetres (3 inches) with a wingspan of 4-5 centimetres (2 inches) wide.
It is found in Asia and south-east Asia in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Cocos Islands, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.
It flies up to 50 kilometres from its cave each night to forage for insects, such as grasshoppers and the Brown planthoppers (Nilaparvata lugens) that destroy up to 60% of rice crops in the bat’s area. Each bat eats 50-100% of its own body weight (about 15 grams) of insects every night. So, the bats help to prevent the loss of 2,000 tons of rice each year, which feeds over 21,000 Cambodians annually.
Location of photographs: Phnom Sampeau, Cambodia
Photographer: Martina Nicolls and images from the billboard at Phnom Sampeau
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM