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Introducing The Little Bat That Could - Jesse The Three-Week-Old Fruit Bat

Toronto, On, Friday, February 24, 2023: They Say It Takes A Village To Raise A Child…But What About A Four-Week-Old Baby Fruit Bat? At Your Toronto Zoo, The Wildlife Care Team Has Been Working Closely With The Veterinarians And Nutritionists To Hand Raise A Bat Pup And It Might Be The Sweet Start To Your Weekend You Didn’t Know You Needed!


In Late January, African Straw-Coloured Fruit Bat Jessica Gave Birth. At 18 Years Old (The Average Life Expectancy For This Species), She Is One Of The Oldest Straw-Coloured Fruit Bats To Give Birth In Human Care. Of All Mammals, Fruit Bats Have The Largest-Sized Babies In Comparison To Their Body Size: A Female That Weighs ~300g Will Give Birth To A Pup That Weighs ~50g! Sadly, The Natural Weight Of The Pup May Have Contributed To Jessica Experiencing A Critical Injury After Giving Birth. She Was Humanely Euthanized Due To The Significant Nature Of The Injury And The Very Poor Chance Of Making A Recovery.

The African Rainforest Team Immediately Stepped In To Begin Hand-Rearing The Pup, Now Named Jesse In Honour Of His Mom. He Receives Around-The-Clock Care, Including Feedings Every Four Hours: The Zoo’s Nutrition Team Designed A Special Milk Formula That Is Made Fresh Every 24 Hours Just For Him. Although To Date He Has Only Been Eating Formula, He Will Soon Be Introduced To Pureed Fruit.


Hand-Rearing Cases Like Jesse Are Undertaken With The Intention Of Returning The Animal To Their Natural Social Group Once They Are Ready. Jesse Will Return To The Bat Colony Once He Is Stronger And More Independent, And Will Be Introduced To Them Slowly Over Time To Ensure His Safety.

Until Then, It Is Important To Simulate What His Mother Would Have Done, Including Grooming Him To Keep Him Healthy And Clean. The Tactile Stimulation Also Provides Comfort And Seems To Be Enjoyed By The Little Bat. Keepers Have Created A ‘Sock Mama’ For Him While He Is In His Incubator, Which Has A Wing Flap That He Roosts Beneath, Just Like He Would Have With His Mom. 


Straw-Coloured Fruit Bats Are Listed As Near Threatened By The Iucn And The Toronto Zoo Participates In The Aza’s Straw-Colored Fruit Bat Species Survival Plan®. With The Goal Of Increasing The Population At The Zoo, The Female And Castrated Male Bats Previously Viewed In Our Former ‘Caves And Burrows’ Habitat (Now Transitioned To A Multi-Faith Space) Were Moved Last Year To A Larger Aviary Above The Ibis Habitat In The African Rainforest Pavilion, Where The Intact Males Have Lived For Several Years. This Location Provides A Natural Light Cycle, Access To Additional Flight Space, And Is More Visible To The Public.

Happily, We Also Welcomed Another Straw-Coloured Fruit Bat Pup Recently, And Both Mom And Pup Appear To Be Doing Well. When Jesse Is Older And Introduced To The Colony In A Few Months We Are Happy He Will Have A Little Buddy. Check Out Your Toronto Zoo’s Social Media Pages For Updates As #Thelittlebatthatcould Continues To Grow!


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