Monday, 28 September 2009

Venezuelan blood feeders

Real vampires are not European. They are American and most are Latin American. European bats don't feed on blood.

There are three species of vampire bats that feed on blood only. All three can be seen in Venezuela.

The one on the picture is the common vampire, a.k.a. Desmodus Rotundus.

I have to say it is one of the most repulsive mammals I have seen. In Venezuela you can sometimes see them at sunset (night sets in very fast at 1 to 10° degrees North of the Equator). You can spot them more often in the countryside, but you can find them in cities as well where there is not much light. Once, as a child, I saw one from a distance of one inch or two: I was climbing on my brother's shoulder to put a TV cable on a high window sill and there it was, in front of me, with its ugly snout and sharp teeth. The bat was absolutely dead, but the shout I gave was heard very far.

Vampires feed on all kinds of animals, from birds to horses...and if you are in the countryside and don't pay attention, they could feed on you (although I never saw one attacking humans but they do) . These nasty wee mammals usually bite and let the blood flow. Then they take the blood with their tongue. Their saliva has an anticoagulant substance to keep the wound bleeding. The Desmodus Rotundus in particular is very dexterous and it can walk and jump by using its wings, sort of to approach in a more quiet way and get to the right spot. If it feeds on a tethered animal one day, it will try to go back to the same animal day after day for more blood as the initial wound is easy to open up again. Yeah, it is creepy. People with horses or cows have to pay attention to that.

One needs to be careful because they can carry rabies. As I said, I never saw one trying to approach me (and they would abhor light), but as I was often going to the countryside, I was told to be careful when some were flying around.

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