Monday, May 08, 2006

Repost: How to catch an African bat

Back by popular demand, I am reposting this little slice of Darfur life. Go to the Water Boys post for another look at what the people "behind the headlines" are really like.
For hours of fun on warm, desert evenings look no farther than a pair of pantyhose.

In the Sub-Sahara, where the nights are pitch black and the silence is only broken by the occasional braying of a donkey, evenings can be pretty dull. Most families gather around the fire or oil-fired lantern to tell stories or simply chat. With no primetime TV to distract them, families grow close together. Often, I would go sit on the edge of my cement porch and bury my feet into the cool sand. I would look up to the sky and see the brilliance that is unveiled in the absence of city lights. And then, I would hear the flutter of wings and see the brief flash of fur dart across the sky - bats!

A young friend of mine showed me how to catch bats without hurting them. I will share the secret recipe for fun with you here.

1 old pantyhose, without large holes
1 medium-sized rock

*Place the rock into the pantyhose and let it drop until it is down in the toe. Then, swing it around and around, gaining momentum. At the right moment, release it so that the pantyhose flies high into the night sky. Then, simply wait. Once the pantyhouse and rock drop back to earth, chances are you will have caught yourself a bat.

The trick is that bats use sonar to track down flying insects to eat. Their sonar resonates off of the rock in the pantyhouse and so they attack it. Their claws get stuck in the fabric and they are pulled by the rock back down to earth. At this point, because bats are not good for anything other than catching, you would pick it up, release its claws and let it go. Then, repeat.

Disclaimer: While this does not harm bats - be careful about getting rabies! Use gloves to remove them to be safe.

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