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Africa’s Largest Mammal Migration is Under Threat

During the day, an estimated 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats roost in the thick swamp along the Musola River, part of Kasanka National Park, which is home to more than 470 bird species and 100 mammals. As sunset comes, they set off to look for wild berries and fruits, covering about 50km (32 miles) and returning back to their swamp roost at dawn. The spectacle only takes place once a year, between October and December. But experts say the near-threatened bats, crucial for restoring Africa’s forests, are in danger. Straw-coloured fruit bats, dubbed “the gardeners of Africa”, are important for the regeneration of woodland forest and Indigenous fruit trees. They travel thousands of kilometres as a migratory species, but much is still unknown about their migratory routes or why they congregate in such large numbers at Kasanka. But as pristine areas and national parks become threatened, their habitats are disappearing. Already, 10,000 hectares (24,711 acres) of pristine forest inside a 5km (3.2-mile) buffer zone around the park prohibited for development within the Kafinda game management area, has been cleared for commercial farming. To prevent illegal deforestation and encroachment, Kasanka Trust has been working with the local community to enable them to legally own 60,000 hectares of forest surrounding the park.