Samantha Keller, keeper at Zoo Vienna Schönbrunn, has become “surrogate mother” to Banshi, a small Kalong Fruit Bat or Large Flying Fox. “We found the small bat alone in a tree in our tropical rain forest house. It was only just a few hours old and already suffering from a reduced temperature. We brought him to his mother, but unfortunately she showed no interest. That is why I have become his mum, so to speak” says the keeper.
Bringing up a Fruit Bat is a 24-hour job. On the first day he had to be fed hourly with rearing milk and now, every three hours.
At the start of a bat pup’s life, the mother will carry her young wherever she goes. Now, that job belongs to Samantha Keller. The small bat sleeps most of the day, like any other baby, in a shawl slung around the keeper`s tummy. He almost always has a dummy in his mouth. “If he were with his mother he would be sucking her teats. The dummy is a substitute and calms him down,” says Keller.
As a Fruit Bat mum, the working day never ends. In the evening, Ms. Keller takes Banshi home with her. He sleeps in a small nest, of heating mats and blankets, next to her bed.
The Large Flying Fox, with its wingspan of up to 1.70 meters is the largest bat in the world. Banshi still has a long way to go. At the moment he only weighs just 160 grams.
Large Flying Foxes live in the tropical rain forest of South-East Asia and are solely vegetarian, feeding on fruits, nectar and pollen. In about a month, Banshi will get his first fruit. He is already spreading his wings and fluttering them a little. “We will start with his flight training in a couple of months,” says Keller, “and when he is about 6 months old he will be able to fly properly and live with the other fruit bats in the tropical rainforest house.”
The Large Flying Fox (Pteropus vampyrus), also known as the Greater Flying Fox, Malayan Flying Fox, Malaysian Flying Fox, Large Fruit Bat, Kalang or Kalong, is a Southeast Asian species of megabat in the family Pteropodidae.
The IUCN has listed the species as “Near Threatened”, with the following reasons: “…because this species is in significant decline (but at a rate of probably less than 30% over ten years or three generations) because it is being over-harvested for food over much of its range, and because of ongoing degradation of its primary forest habitat, making the species close to qualifying for Vulnerable under criterion A.”