BATS and MANGOES
WHAT IS THE BAT-MANGO CONNECTION?
Bats plant mango trees.
Old World Tropics mango tree planters
There are at least l0 different kinds of fruit bats and flying foxes that eat and plant mangoes in the Old World Tropics. (1)
Pallas's spear-nosed bat - New World Tropics mango tree planter (2)
In the New World Tropics there are at least l48 different kinds of bats that eat fruit, including mangoes.
The biggest of those bats, the ones that can carry a mango fruit away from the parent tree and drop the seed, are the most effective mango tree planters.
DOES THE MANGO TREE GROW IN TROPICS ALL OVER THE WORLD?
It does now. It probably grew first in southern Asia, but now it is cultivated in many tropical countries. (3) It also grows wild in many of those countries, thanks to the seeds that are dropped by bats, monkeys and people. Wild bat-planted mango trees are an important genetic resource for plant scientists. (4)
Egyptian rousette enjoying a ripe mango
HAVE HUMAN BEINGS KNOWN ABOUT MANGO TREES AND MANGOES FOR A LONG TIME?
Thousands and thousands of years, such a very long time that mango trees have an important meaning in an Indian religion, Hinduism, and in Indian myths. The tree is a sacred tree to Hindus because Prajapati, the Lord of Creatures, was changed into a mango tree. (5)
ARE MANGO FRUITS EXCEPTIONALLY DELICIOUS?
Millions of people in the world think that a mango is the best of all fruits. s
IS THE MANGO WOOD GOOD FOR SOMETHING BESIDES HINDU FUNERAL PYRES?
Yes, many things. Mango wood is also used to make rafters, window frames, agricultural implements, boxes, plywood and charcoal.(3)
Mango wood is used to make boats and dugout canoes. It is used to make elegant furniture, carved and turned bowls, vases, jewelry, drums, ukuleles, and toys.(6)
Mango leaves are used for mulch and to feed cattle. The kernel from the mango seed is eaten as famine food, when people are short on food. Oil can be pressed from the kernel and used to make soap.(3)
The flowers, bark, gum, kernel oil and leaves are used to make medicines to treat many human maladies.(3)
The leaves are used for mulch. The tree itself is a useful windbreak. (7)
Because of all these useful characteristics the mango tree is classified as one of the world's Outstanding Multipurpose Trees.(7)
IT SOUNDS TO ME AS THOUGH THE MANGO TREE IS A SOURCE OF JOBS FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE.
You are right. Think of all the human employment associated with the growing, harvesting, the shipment and processing of billions of mangoes a year. One of the job opportunities in Africa for people, especially women, is in the production of solar dried mangoes. Some people would say that a slice of dried mango is superior to a slice of fresh mango. It is chewy, bursting with flavour . . . delicious!
At your local whole food store you can buy dried mangoes produced in one of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso, West Africa. Women constitute 85 percent of the membership of the farmers' cooperative that markets a number of products, including dried mangoes. The farmer women who belong to this cooperative earn money that can be used to improve their homes and farms. The money can help to ensure the health and education of their children.
Sorting dried mangoes
The major fresh mango producers in the world are countries where there are big populations and widespread poverty. There are organizations that are trying to encourage farmers in these countries to plant mango trees and to have a contract to deliver the mangoes themselves directly to the processors and distributors. That would bypass the middlemen who take some of the farmers' profits. Mangoes would go from the "farm gate" to the "factory gate".
That pattern would mean more money for the farmers. This could help to keep families from emigrating from rural areas to the cities. Slowing that emigration could help to reduce the number of children who end up in prostitution when families can't find enough work in cities.(8)
It could also mean that a barren countryside will be transformed by blooming and fruiting orchards of mango trees.
(1)Fujita, M.S. 1991. Flying Fox (Chiroptera:Pteropodidae) Pollination, Seed Dispersal, and Economic Importance: A Tabular Summary of Current Knowledge, Resource Publication No. 2, Bat Conservation International
(2)New York Botanical Gardens Bat/Plant Databases http://www.nybg.org/botany/tlobova/mori/batsplants/database/dbase_main.htm
(3)Morton, Julia, Fruits of Warm Climates, Mango, 1987, pages 221-239;http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton
(4)Douthett, Daniel G., The Mango:Asia's King of Fruits, Ethnobotanical Leaflet; http://www.siu.edu/~ebl/leaflets/mango.htm
(5)Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Information Sheets:Mango; http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/ksheets/mango.html
(6)Search Google Images for "Mango Wood"
(7)Wilkinson, Kim, Elevitch, Craig, Examples of Some Outstanding Multipurpose Trees, The Overstory, agroforestry ejournal; http://www.agroforestry.net/overstory/overstory16.html
(8)Dried Mangoes and Fruit/Juices, Environmental Impact, Peoples'Recovery, Empowerment and Development Assistance Foundation, Inc.; http://www.preda.org/fruitbiz.htm
FAMILY: Anacardiaceae (Cashew, Mango, Sumacs and Poison Ivy
SPECIES: Mangifera indica
NEW WORLD TROPICS:
Jamaican fruit bat (Artibeus
New York Botanical Gardens Bat/Plant Databases http://www.nybg.org/botany/tlobova/mori/batsplants/database/dbase_main.htm
OLD WORLD TROPICS:
Gambian epauletted fruit bat
Fujita, M.S. 1991. Flying Fox (Chiroptera:Pteropodidae) Pollination, Seed Dispersal, and Economic Importance: A Tabular Summary of Current Knowledge, Resource Publication No. 2, Bat Conservation International
Written and illustrated by Mary Louise Alley-Crosby who thanks Dr. Merlin D. Tuttle, Founder and President of Bat Conservation International, Austin, Texas, for permission to use his photograph of an Egyptian rousette eating a mango as source material.
Links checked 8 March 2006