Rotorua's 'Batman' jokes about close encounter

Rotorua's "Batman" is more like the Joker today as he laughs about his close encounter with hundreds of bats in the wee hours of the morning.

Bob Dowling was walking home from the pub about 3am with his mate Chris Harris, who was visiting from Invercargill, when he heard strange noises coming from some trees on Amohia Street.

"We saw all these funny looking birds, at least that's what we thought they were -- and then one of them dropped out of the tree on me and landed on my back, which gave me a fair bit of a fright.

"It clawed me a bit and then flew away," he told NZPA.

The 21-year-old then climbed the tree to take a closer look and hundreds of bats all flew to another tree.

But unlike DC's comic hero Batman, Mr Dowling and his boy wonder Mr Harris did not charge off to fight crime in the city's underworld -- rather they jumped in a taxi to beat a hasty retreat.

The bat did not leave a mark on Mr Dowling and he was pretty sure he would not have to visit the doctor for a rabies shot.

When he woke later this morning he wondered if he had imagined the whole incident.

"But my mate confirmed to me it all happened.

"We're having a bit of a laugh about the whole thing. The boys have been taking the mickey out of me all day.

"They're calling me Batman." Mr Dowling's saviour, taxi driver Ngaia Monaham, said she didn't believe their tale at first, but then saw the winged creatures for herself.

After dropping the men at their destinations, Ms Monaham and a colleague returned to Amohia Street and watched the nocturnal animals for about two hours.

She said hundreds of them were flying between three trees.

"It was eerie, but it was exciting," she said.

The Rotorua born and bred taxi driver said she had never known of bats roosting in the area.

Department of Conservation project manager for the Rotorua Lakes area office, Peter Corson, also said they did not know of any bats in the central city area -- with the closest known ones about 20km out of the city.

"And certainly I've never heard of bats in New Zealand attacking people." Bats had an incredible ability to sense objects, even in the darkest of areas, and usually avoided them, he said.

New Zealand has two species of bats, the short-tail and the long tail, and both prefer big old forests areas to live in.

Neither species was known to have a taste for human flesh and the nearest vampire bats to Rotorua could be found in South America, Mr Corson said.