In 2020, Twitter user @AlexJoestar622 posted a photo of what appeared to be a human-sized bat in the Philippines, setting the internet on fire. Many people immediately believed the photo was fake, but it has since been confirmed to be real, showing a giant gold-headed fruit bat (Acerodon Jubatus). Also known as the golden-headed flying fox, this endangered species is one of the largest bats in the world and is endemic to the Philippines. Classified as megabats, these fruit bats can weigh up to 3 pounds and have a wingspan of up to 5 and a half feet. The Twitter photo is not fake, but it does make the bat appear slightly larger than it actually is. This is due to forced perspective, a common optical illusion in photography. This technique is often used in fantasy films to play with ideas of scale. By bringing objects closer to the camera, you can make them appear larger. Bats look scary and big on Twitter, but they're actually not that big. Still, anyone would probably be shocked if they turned the corner and saw this bat snoozing in their garage. Fortunately, the giant golden-crowned flying fox isn't actually interested in humans.
Their diet consists mainly of figs and leaves. Like most bats, they forage at night and sleep during the day. In the wild, they live between 10 and 30 years. Little is known about their reproduction, other than that each female gives birth to one offspring. It is also believed that they only give birth once a year.
Given its size, it would take a large predator to take down this fruit bat. In fact, its main predators are large birds of prey such as eagles. They are also hunted by reticulated pythons and, unfortunately, by humans who use pythons as bushmeat. This practice and deforestation are the two biggest challenges facing flying foxes. The flying fox was added to the IUCN Red List in 2016 due to population decline. It is estimated that there was a mixed colony of up to 100,000 bats in the late 19th century. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the estimated bat population in 2012 is between 10,000 and 20,000 bats. And thanks to the work of the Bat Count Project, we now know that many of the existing mixed colonies (much smaller than before) do not contain any bat species at all. When first scientifically described in 1831, these bats were actually classified into three subspecies. One of these subspecies, Jubatus Lucifer, is already extinct. Therefore, it is more important than ever to take care of the remaining variants.