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Bats began roosting in trees on the grounds of Ganta United Methodist Hospital in Liberia in November. Patrick Mantor, a hospital administrator, said the bats left “without any human action” and never entered the hospital, despite earlier reports. Photo by Julu Swen, UMNS.

Photo by Julu Swen, UMNS

Bats began roosting in trees on the grounds of Ganta United Methodist Hospital in Liberia in November. Patrick Mantor, a hospital administrator, said the bats left “without any human action” and never entered the hospital, despite earlier reports.

Going a little batty at Ganta Hospital

 

By Julu Swen
Jan. 18, 2018 | GANTA, Liberia (UMNS)

Contrary to some media reports, flying bats did not disrupt operations recently at Ganta United Methodist Hospital.

Those who use “rubber guns” — also known as slingshots — to fire stones at bats roosting in trees on the hospital grounds did cause problems, said Patrick Mantor, hospital administrator.

But, he stressed, “at no time did a single bat enter any of the hospital buildings to disrupt work.”

Mantor told United Methodist News Service that the disturbance came from individuals who make money by hunting the bats, which have been roosting in the trees since November, just as they did in November 2016.

Bats are usually found in big trees in and around several cities, including Monrovia, the capital of Liberia.

Mantor said the hospital and Ganta City authorities were able to stop the bat hunters soon enough in 2016 — unlike in 2017, when those wanting to eat the bats increased, expanding the wave of hunters.

“The demand for bats as meat increased to the point that there were people waiting for the bat hunters and their kills around the Ganta hospital grounds,” he explained.

He said one bat was going for $50 Liberian dollars, which is the equivalent of 50 cents U.S., and once the news got around, the number of hunters was increasing daily. “These bats hunters were practically breaking the fence to come and pick up their dead bats once the stone has had its effect,” he noted.

Contrary to a report from CNN, the Ganta Hospital administrator said the bats usually lodge in the trees on the hospital grounds and stay there until they are ready to leave. This year, the bats left “without any human action,” he said, on Jan. 13.

Mantor also pointed out that the bats are usually driven from the trees by the sound of a gun firing, adding, “we were planning to do that when we discovered that the bats have left the trees and so, too, (have) the hunters.”

Several roofs of the buildings will have to be changed becase of the damage done to them from falling stones that had been shot by the rubber guns, he said. Three people were hurt by the stones and had to be taken to the emergency section of the hospital. “Cutting the big trees around the hospital is not an option because the damage from the wind will be more than stones falling on the roofs of the buildings and occasionally hurting people,” he concluded.

Ben Domah, a United Methodist who lived in Ganta City, confirmed the presence of the bats in the trees on the hospital grounds. “Bats can’t fly very low, so there is no way they could have entered any of the hospital buildings,” Domah stressed.

He said because the bats were many, the desire to hunt them down and make some money attracted more people to the hospital grounds, adding, “there were buyers and hunters as well as individuals who were just mesmerized by the presence of the bats.”

Domah noted that on the day selected individuals were authorized by the Ganta City authorities to shoot the bats, they were nowhere to be found. “We are all wondering how the bats left without a single gun being fired at them,” he said.

Swen is a communicator in Liberia. News media contact: Vicki Brown, Nashville, Tennessee, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.