Bats are strange creatures. They are classified as mammals yet they look like birds. They have wings and can fly. Large external ears and faces that look like those of rats give them a peculiar appearance. Their wings are made of very soft thick skin and have no feathers on them, but the rest of their bodies are covered in soft fur, which may be grey, brown or black in colour. Most bats feed on insects. Some bats feed on fruits, pollen and nectar. There are also some very large bats known as vampire bats which feed on the blood of mammals and of some large birds. Vampires often suck blood out of living creatures, and as a result they sometimes kill their victims.
Generally, bats sleep during the day and hunt during the night. This is helpful to them because most of the insects they eat walk during the night, making it easier for the bats to catch them. Bats usually live in carefully chosen, well protected places, such as caves and the inside of ceilings. Some live on trees. Unlike other creatures, bats sleep or rest with their heads pointing downwards!
An interesting mating and breeding pattern has been observed among bats. Mating between male and female bats takes place during the same period of the year. When they become pregnant, female bats migrate to special resting places. They generally produce only one young although sometimes they have twins. Baby bats are blind and deaf for a short period after birth. Mother bats nurse their young for at least five weeks before young ones can go freely on their own.
Bats are helpful to humans and the environment in a number of ways. They feed on insects and in doing so, they reduce the number of pests harmful to humans and their crops. Secondly, when feeding on fruits, pollen and nectar, bats help in seed dispersal and in pollination. Lastly, the droppings of bats are used as fertilizers.
Sometimes, bats can be quite a nuisance. They often live in houses, where they make a lot of noise at night. Their droppings are dirty and have a bad smell. Vampire bats are quite harmful and dangerous, as they suck blood from livestock. Such bats are sometimes carriers of rabbies, a killer disease commonly found in dogs.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about bats is how they manage to move about in the dark without hitting themselves against objects. As they fly about, they produce short, sharp sounds. These sounds hit the objects nearby, and come back in the form of echoes. In this way, bats can easily move about while avoiding to hit objects in their way as they fly in search for food.
Elephants live in herds of tens, twenties or even fifties. An elephant herd consists of a bull and several old females with their daughters, grand-daughters and young sons. During the dry season, they migrate to forest or highland areas where they can find plenty of water. During the rainy seasons they move to grassy plains. Each herd is usually led by one cow elephant.
Adult elephant bulls often stay and wander alone, but they visit the herd frequently for mating. If two bulls meet in the herd they are likely to fight, until one is defeated and driven out of the herd. Certain male elephants live alone and they attack people at first sight. They are called rogue bulls. They usually suffer from some painful wound, a toothache or something that makes them angry very easily. So they attack anybody who comes their way.
A baby elephant weighs 80 kilograms at birth and is born after gestation period of 22 months, longer than any other animal. It sucks its mother’s milk for three or four years, using its mouth, not its trunk.
Despite their enormous size, elephants are good swimmers. They like cooling off in swamps, and they are often seen swimming across wide rivers.
Elephants have poor eyesight. Their sense of hearing is not very good either, in spite of their huge ears. But they have a very sharp sense of smell, to warn them of danger.
The trunk is one of the most important parts of an elephant’s body. It is long and almost reaches the ground. It is formed by the nose and the upper lip. The trunk is used for feeding, and as an organ of smell and of touch. It is used for lifting heavy objects and when elephants are in love, they touch each other with their trunks.
Elephants eat a huge amount of green vegetation. A big bull elephant may eat up to 225 kg of food a day. Elephants must eat a lot of food and drink plenty of water to nourish their huge bodies.
Elephants are hunted by man. Although this is now not allowed by law in many countries, they are killed in secret. This activity is called poaching. The poachers kill them for their tusks which are highly valued. Tusks are very long teeth which continue to grow throughout an elephant’s life. The biggest tusks are about 4 meters long and may weigh up to about 140 kg.
Elephants can live for about seventy years and are very intelligent. In some parts of the world, such as India and Zaire, elephants have been trained to work in forestry projects. Because of their enormous strength, they are used to lift and pull heavy logs. But unless carefully protected, elephants may be completely wiped out by the activities of poachers who kill them for ivory.
(Rainbow Children’s Magazine, No. 337, of June 1986)
1. What is the size of a fully grown elephant?
2. How big are elephant herds?
3. What is likely to happen if two bull elephants meet in the herd?
4. How do rogue bull elephants behave? Why do they behave as they do?
5. What is the weight of a newly born elephant? For how long does it drink it mother’s milk?
6. Each herd of elephants is usually led by one_______ elephant.
A. bull B. rogue
C. cow D. adult
7. Elephants have a very sharp sense of______.
A. smell B. sight
C. hearing D. taste
8. One of the most important parts of an elephant’s body that helps it to survive is the_________.
A. tusks B. trunk
C. ears D. eyes
9. Elephants are hunted by poachers for their __________.
A. trunks B. tusks
C. skins D. meat
10. Abig bull elephant may eat up to ______ kg of food per day.
A. 20 B. 100
C. 220 D. 500
A long time ago, there were no zebras. But there were donkeys which were wild. The donkeys were hunted by humans. So many donkeys were killed in this way and they became worried. “At this rate, we shall be wiped off the face of the earth,” one donkey said. “We should do something and do it pretty soon,” another one added. The donkeys discussed their problems for a long time, but no solution seemed to be in sight. So they decided to go and see the Hare and seek his advice.
Hare was the most respected animal in the world in those days. His wisdom was sought and respected by all the animals. He always found a solution to even the most difficult problems. When the donkeys arrived at the Hare’s house, they did not have to knock. Hare was basking, lying on his back in the sun outside his house, nibbling at something held in his forearms. As soon as he saw the donkeys, he was up on his feet, ready to receive them.
When they were all gathered, one of the donkeys cleared her throat and began: “We bring you peace. We are hunted night and day by human beings. The number of donkeys killed every day are too many for anyone to count. We have come to you for advice on how this bloodshed can be ended.”
Hare nodded as he listened attentively. “Well,” he replied, “I do not understand why
human beings hunt you. They do not eat your flesh, do they?”
“No they don’t,” the donkeys replied in chorus.
“For some strange reason best known to them,” one donkey added, “They do not want
to see our species on this planet!” Hare was lost in deep thought. Then he turned to his visitors and said, “Listen, I have an idea, perhaps a solution to your problem. It’s quite simple. I am going to give you a beautiful coat of paint. After that, human beings will not recognize you at all,
and will stop hunting you.” At first the donkeys thought that this was no solution to their problem. They thought that it was a foolish idea because a donkey would not be mistaken for anything else. They rejected Hare’s idea and went away.
One of the donkeys decided that she would rather have the beautiful coating of paint that Hare had suggested. “Even if it does not protect me from the hunters, I will still go for it because I would appear more beautiful than I am at the moment. At any rate, I have nothing to lose except my dull grey colour,” she told the others, as she returned to Hare’s house.
After the donkey apologized, Hare took his pail of paint and his brush and began his
work. He painted beautiful black stripes covering her entire body. The donkey who was painted returned to where the others were, looking at herself in admiration after every few steps. The others were simply dumbfounded. She looked strikingly beautiful. They all admired her. In no time, they were all at Hare’s house apologizing to him and asking him to paint them too. “I will paint all of you. Just line up and behave yourselves,” Hare said.
Hare painted each donkey in turn, moving his brush briskly up and down and left and right, with great accuracy and skill. When he was about halfway through his job, one silly donkey kicked the pail of paint, pouring its contents! Half the donkeys had to go without being painted. Those who were painted are today’s zebras. The others remained donkeys.
1. Why were the donkeys worried about their safety?
2. Why was Hare the most respected being in the animal world?
3. When the donkeys arrived at Hare’s house, what was it that they did not do?
4. Explain why Hare did not understand why man hunts donkeys?
5. What was Hare doing outside his house when the donkeys arrived?
6. The donkeys rejected Hare’s idea of painting them because they thought that _____.
A. paint is sticky and dirty
B. a decorated donkey was still a donkey
C. human beings would still recognize them
D. Hare did not have enough paint for all.
7. One of the donkeys decided to go back to be painted because_______.
A. this would protect her from human beings
B. she had nothing else to do
C. she wanted to become beautiful
D. she did not want Hare to be angry with her
8. When Hare told the donkeys that he would give them a beautiful coat of paint, he meant that he would _______.
A. give each of them a beautiful coat
B. simply paint them
C. take them to court if they refused to be painted
D. give them coats which are beautifully painted.