Monday, January 31, 2011

Battle of the mango

The prize is a sweet juicy orange fruit, not commonly found in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.  The contest is between the flying foxes, a group of bats which are resorting to surprise attacks in the cover of darkness, and the McCoys and I who either wait patiently for the ripened fruit to fall from the tree or try and shake the ripened fruit from the tree.  The winner is anyone who succeeds in eating this fine fruit.

This year, the mango tree outside my house has produced a record number of mangos - definitely over 100.  In the previous 3 years I have been here, we may have gotten 12 total, but this year I have eaten at least one a day since I have been back, and there are a lot more that haven't fallen.    There are more mangos than the McCoys and I can eat, so we are giving them away, but I would rather not give them away to the flying foxes who have recently discovered them.

One night I was laying in bed trying to go to sleep when I heard something that sounded like a mango falling from the tree.  Then I heard another sound, kind of like flapping that would come and go.   I wasn't sure what the noise was, but thought someone might be up in the tree trying to steal the mangos while it was dark.  Feeling somewhat brave inside my house, I decided to go to the window to see what was out there.  The security light illuminated the area right by the mango tree, and as I stood there watching the tree I soon saw the culprit.  Flying foxes, or bats, were feasting on a late night snack.

I stood at the window and watched the 3 or 4 bats flying and landing on the tree and the mangos.  Their weight was causing some of the mangos to fall to the ground, which was the thumping sound I heard.  The flapping was them flying by the window as they were either coming or going from the tree.  The next morning I went outside and found partially eaten mangos on the ground and one mango that had been stripped to it's seed hanging in the tree.

 In the nights that have followed, I have managed to sleep through the flying fox's late night feasts, but it doesn't mean they haven't come.  Most mornings the partially eaten mangos laying on the ground is all the evidence that is needed to know they were there the night before.  It also seems the 3-4 bats that were their the first night have told their friends and they are all feasting as the damage each morning seems to be increasing.

For now, we are stilling winning the battle, but the bats don't seem to be as picky as we are in wanting ripened mangos.  Picking them early, hasn't produced the best results for us, so we are left waiting for the ripe ones to fall or at times shaking the tree, while they feast each night.  The battle will continue.