Three Rodrigues flying foxes are being raised at the Oregon Zoo this month, adding to the growing population of a bat species once considered the most imperiled on the planet.
Closer in size to a flying prairie dog — and in appearance to a flying Ewok — this endangered species is native only to Rodrigues, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean about 900 miles east of Madagascar. The bat plays an important ecological role on the island, where few other pollinators or seed dispersers exist.
Keepers say the new pups at the zoo are not only "adorable," but a testament to one of the most inspiring conservation stories in history: living proof of the impact people can have — both positive and negative — on wildlife and species conservation.
Deputy Section Head of Primates, Natalie Horner, has successfully taken on the role of surrogate mother to two abandoned Egyptian Fruit Bat pups at Cotswold Wildlife Park.
This is the first time Natalie has hand-reared these nocturnal mammals and, according to Park records, it is also the first time this species has been hand-reared at the Burford collection. The pups were discovered on their own when the Bat House was undergoing a major revamp.
Natalie explained, “A couple of days after we moved all of the Bats into temporary holdings, while we refurbished the Bat House, we saw both babies roosting by themselves. Mother Bats often 'park' their babies to give themselves a break. So we left them for a day, in the hope their mums would come and collect them again, as the chances of the babies surviving without a feed and warmth are very slim.”
Their mothers never returned so the decision was made to hand-rear them in order to give the pups, named Bruce and Wayne, the best possible chance of survival. Natalie became their surrogate mother and took them to her home where they could be given around-the-clock care. At the time, they were around four to six weeks old and weighed forty grams. Unable to maintain their own body temperature, they were kept in an incubator for two weeks and monitored closely by Natalie.
Photo Credits: Cotswold Wildlife Park
Hand-rearing these tiny winged-mammals was no mean feat. A lot of time and effort was invested in the newborns, which hopefully would result in not only their survival but also their eventual reintroduction to the colony.
Natalie said, “I had to feed the babies every three hours in the early days. They were given milk as well as mashed fruit. The first feed of the day was at six o’clock in the morning and the last feed was at midnight.”
Feeding soon became one of Natalie’s favorite parental duties, and she explained why: “One of the things I'll never forget was wrapping the babies in their blankets for feed times. Wrapping them up gave them comfort, as their mother would wrap her wings around them to keep them safe. As soon as they finished their feed (and sometimes during) they would fall asleep wrapped in their blankets. It really melted my heart.”
As they continued to grow, and in order for their wings to developed properly, she encouraged them to fly.
“When they were around ten weeks old we began flying lessons. This was great fun. Bats instinctively know how to fly, so they just needed a little bit of encouragement. I would hang them from my finger and gently bob them up and down to encourage them to wing beat. I hung towels and sheets on the walls of my spare room to give plenty of roosting opportunities. The first lesson went as expected - they flapped their wings and flopped straight on the floor! They quickly recovered though and it didn't take long at all for their muscles to strengthen and for them to fly from one side of the room to the other. From then we had nightly flying lessons. As soon as they were able to fly comfortably around my spare room they were upgraded to their own enclosure at the Park before being reintroduced to the colony.”
Bruce and Wayne developed into strong young Bats and the day Natalie had been hoping for finally arrived. Natalie continued, “By the time the Bats were six months old they were fully self-feeding and very strong and capable flyers. They are still only half the size of the adult Bats but shouldn't have any problems integrating and competing for food. So the decision was made to reintroduce them to the rest of the colony. There wasn't much preparation needed so the Bats were put into transport bags and taken to the Bat enclosure. Once taken out of the bags, I placed them on my finger for one last time and watched them fly off to rejoin the rest of the colony. They both flew a couple of circuits of the enclosure before roosting with the rest of the colony. It was such a proud moment for me, and such a happy ending to what had been four amazing months. To see the babies back with their family made all the hard work worth it. I'm so happy for them to be back where they belong.”
The tiny survivors are testament to Natalie’s dedication as their keeper. Looking back on her time as their surrogate mother, she said: “Hand-rearing Bruce and Wayne was an amazing experience. To care for them, help them grow and develop into strong, healthy Bats and then reintroduce them back to their colony was incredibly rewarding. Bats are fascinating animals and are important plant pollinators and seed dispersers. It’s been great to raise awareness for these misunderstood animals and hopefully we've been able to change some opinions and generate more love for these wonderful mammals.”
With huge eyes, spotted wings, and tubular nostrils, Eastern Tube-nosed Bats are a unique and fascinating Australian Fruit Bat species. Two of these little Bats are currently being cared for at the Australian Bat Clinic.
Photo Credit: Rachael Wasiak/Wakaleo
Video Credit: Adam Cox/Wakaleo
The two Bats were injured in the wild and brought to the Clinic. One of the Bats was attacked by a Kookaburra, and the other was caught in barbed wire. Once the Bats recover from their injuries, they will be released back into the wild.
It’s rare for humans to encounter these Bats, because they are shy and extremely well-camouflaged. As fruit-eaters, Tube-nosed Bats disperse the seeds of many native and exotic fruiting trees, including fig trees.
Eastern Tube-nosed Bats live in forests along Australia’s northeastern coast.
A tiny, critically endangered Rodrigues Flying Fox almost didn't live past her first day at the Oregon Zoo, but the pup is now one-month-old and well on the road to recovery.
"Rods," as Rodrigues Flying Foxes are often called in zoological circles, were once considered the most imperiled bat species on the planet, and each birth is considered an important step toward ensuring their long-term survival.
Oregon Zoo keepers were justifiably thrilled when, Sara, one of several Rodrigues Flying Foxes at the zoo's "bat cave," gave birth to a new pup on March 10. However, the day after the pup’s birth, excitement turned to concern when keepers found the tiny bat on the floor of the habitat, apparently rejected by her mom.
"Rods are big and fuzzy, and most of the time they keep their babies tucked up underneath a wing," said Laura Weiner, Senior Keeper for the zoo's Africa section. "When you see a baby on the ground, that's not a good sign."
The pup, which weighed less than 2 ounces, felt cold to the touch. Keepers scooped her up and rushed her to the zoo's veterinary medical center, where she was warmed, given fluids and determined to be in good health.
After several attempts to reunite the pup with her mother were met with rejection, the baby was returned to the vet hospital, where animal-care staff worked in shifts to administer formula feedings. She's out of ICU now, but she'll remain behind the scenes, until fall, during a long hand-rearing process that currently involves nine bottle feedings a day.
Photo Credits: Oregon Zoo
Weiner says the tiny survivor is not only "adorable," but a testament to one of the most inspiring conservation stories in history: living proof of the impact people can have, both positive and negative, on wildlife and species conservation.
"Every birth is significant for these bats," Weiner said. "Forty years ago, the Rodrigues Flying Fox was perilously close to extinction. The fact that they are here today shows what a difference people can make in helping wildlife."
The species is native only to Rodrigues, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean about 900 miles east of Madagascar, and plays an important ecological role on the island, where few other pollinators or seed dispersers exist. By the 1970s, much of this fruit bats' forest habitat had been cleared, and the species was on the brink extinction. After a cyclone hit the island in 1979, only 70 individuals remained, making the Rodrigues Flying Fox (Pteropus rodricensis) the most rare bat in the world.
The bats found a champion in English naturalist, Gerald Durrell, who translocated some survivors to form the nucleus of a breeding colony aimed at repopulating the species.
Although the Rodrigues Flying Fox is currently classified as “Critically Endangered” by the IUCN, the population has now increased to around 20,000, thanks to 40 years of conservation activity, including the Rodrigues Environmental Educator Project launched by the Philadelphia Zoo in 1998.
The Oregon Zoo began housing "Rods" in 1994, and has raised more than 40 pups since then, periodically sending bats to other zoos as part of the Rodrigues Flying Fox Species Survival Plan. (SSPs are Association of Zoos and Aquariums programs to ensure species that are threatened or endangered in the wild have sustainable populations in zoos and aquariums).
There’s a new “miracle baby” at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park—and this time, it has wings. A 12-day-old Rodrigues Fruit Bat is flying ahead of schedule in his development, despite a rough delivery.
On January 11, Bat keepers at the Safari Park noticed female Fruit Bat Patty was behaving abnormally and didn’t greet animal care staff during their morning rounds. Keepers determined that the first-time mother was having labor difficulties. Patty was brought to the park’s medical center, where veterinarians performed the first-ever emergency C-section on a Rodrigues Fruit Bat. Unfortunately, Patty did not survive. To ensure the pup’s survival, animal care staff is providing round-the-clock care until the pup is old enough to be introduced to the rest of the Bat colony.
Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo Safari Park
The male pup is the second Rodrigues Fruit Bat ever to be hand reared at the nursery. Patty was the first. Hand raising this winged mammal is no easy task: It requires a very detailed regimen and lots of affection. The pup spends all of his time attached to a “sock mom” that mimics his mother. To properly regulate his body temperature and provide enough humidity to maintain pliable wings, the pup stays in a controlled incubator set between 85 and 89 degrees Fahrenheit, with 75 percent humidity. Animal care staff feed the youngster inside the incubator every two hours, and feedings can take up to 45 minutes. “He tends to fall asleep during his feedings,” says Kimberly Millspaugh, senior animal keeper. “Sometimes he wants to play or just wants attention, so getting him to finish can be challenging.” Careful feedings are required to avoid asphyxiation. The pup receives human infant formula because Bats cannot synthesize their own vitamin C, which the formula contains. Following every feeding, the youngster is bathed with a damp cotton ball, dried off and wrapped in a warm blanket, to mimic his mother’s cradling wings.
The critically endangered Rodrigues Fruit Bat is only found on Rodrigues Island, located about 300 miles east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Most of this Bat population is found in a single colony, at three roost sites they have used for more than 50 years. As tamarind and mango trees, which produce the Bats’ favored fruits, were cut to plant other crops, food sources for the Bats dwindled, as did the Bats’ numbers. Following a cyclone in 2003, which destroyed habitat and swept Bats out to sea, they numbered only about 4,000. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has established a breeding colony as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan program in order to create a sustainable population. San Diego Zoo Global has also partnered with the Rodrigues Environmental Educator Programme, working with school and community groups to support Bat conservation.
Bats do more than earn their keep—insect-eating Bats prevent diseases like West Nile virus and help save crops from pests, and fruit-eaters pollinate plants and disperse seeds. Bat droppings support bacteria useful to humans, including the production of antibiotics.
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.
Photo Credits: Daniel Zupanc / Tiergarten Schönbrunn
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.
It’s not every day that an orphaned animal meets a movie star, but that’s what happened to Jackie Sparrow, a Flying Fox Bat who lost its mother during a storm.
Photo Credit: Dean Morgan Photography/Rachael Wasiak
Staff at the Australian Bat Clinic introduced the Bat to Johnny Depp, who was shooting the latest “Pirates Of The Caribbean” film near the rescue center.
Johnny expressed his love of Bats and offered to sponsor the little one as it undergoes rehabilitation at the clinic. Dressed as the movie’s lead character Jack Sparrow, Depp visited the center to meet and feed the little Bat.
Extreme weather events are often devastating to Flying Fox populations. Abnormally high temperatures and cyclonic winds can cause baby Bats to be separated from their mothers.
Rescued Bats being cared for at the clinic frequently remain for many months before they are released back to the wild.
Flying Foxes are large, fruit-eating Bats native to tropical areas. Unlike the smaller, insect-eating Bats found in temperate regions, Flying Foxes do not use echolocation to find food. Instead, they rely on their excellent eyesight to locate fruiting trees. They play an important role in seed dispersal of many tropical plants.
Zoo Boise is excited to share photos of their two new Ruwenzori Long-Haired Fruit Bat pups.
The two elusive boys are currently staying close to their mothers, which makes photography of the newborns a bit more challenging.
Photo Credits: Zoo Boise
Ruwenzori Long-Haired Fruit Bats are important tree pollinators. For example, the baobab tree depends on bat pollination for survival. As the bat reaches into a flower to get nectar, pollen rubs onto their foreheads. This pollen is left on the next flower they visit.
Fruit Bats (or Megabats) constitute the suborder Megachiroptera, and its only family Pteropodidae of the order Chiroptera. They are native to Africa, Asia, Australia and the South Pacific, and are represented by 166 species. In North America, about twelve species of Megachiroptera are managed in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions. These bats can be divided into three different groups, based on ability to echolocate and roosting behaviors: 1) megabats with audible echolocation; 2) megabats that cannot echolocate and roost in dense cover in small groups; and 3) megabats that cannot echolocate and roost in larger groups in tree canopies.
In North America, two species of Rousette Fruit Bats are commonly housed in zoological collections: the Egyptian Fruit Bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) and the Ruwenzori Long-Haired Fruit Bat (Rousettus lanosus). These fruit bats are nocturnal and feed predominately on fruit, flower resources and leaves. In captivity, Rousette Fruit Bats will also consume mealworms (Tenebrio molitor). In the wild, Rousette Fruit Bats roost in large crowded colonies, in caves. These cave-dwelling bats have a rudimentary echolocation system, based on audible tongue clicking for navigation. When feeding, these bats rely on vision and sense of smell for locating food resources.
An endangered Florida Bonneted Bat has found a new home, inside a camera pouch, at Zoo Miami.
The baby was found by a Miami park ranger, last month, and was soon given the moniker, ‘Bruce’, after the famed comic book character. Volunteers tried to locate the mother in the vicinity, but their efforts were unsuccessful. Wildlife rescue officials were contacted, and the baby bat was sent to a rescue center in Fort Lauderdale. After it was determined the baby was a rare Bonneted Bat, federal officials turned its care over to Zoo Miami.
Photo Credits: Dustin Smith
Frank Ridgely, a veterinarian and head of conservation and research at Zoo Miami, began feeding the bat a milkshake of diluted goat’s milk, crushed bug guts, and high-protein powder. ‘Bruce’ is responding well to the feedings and is happily growing accustomed to his new home, snuggling into his camera pouch-sleeping bag.
This is the first juvenile Bonneted Bat rehabbed, according to experts, and the entire process is a learning experience for zoo staff and wildlife officials. Bruce’s development and progress will provide vital information about the endangered bats. Biologists are still working to discover key elements in the bat’s lifestyle: such as diet and roosting habits.
Although it is not known how Bruce was separated from his mother, there is speculation that recent tree trimmings in the area could have disturbed his roost. The time of year baby Bruce was found also provides previously unknown information for biologists. The baby bat was found in November, suggesting that the Bonneted Bats’ birthing season lasts longer than was suspected.
The Florida Bonneted Bat is native to the southern portion of Florida, excluding the Florida Keys. Previously known as Wagner’s Mastiff Bat, the bat was reclassified, in 2004, as a separate species, unique to Florida. They are classified as ‘Endangered’, by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Some may like it hot, but not Australia’s Fruit Bats. A spring heat wave with temperatures over 100 degrees F has killed many adult Fruit Bats, leaving their babies orphaned and in need of care. That’s why the Australian Bat Clinic and Wildlife Trauma Center has been inundated with rescued baby Bats in recent months.
Photo Credit: Adam Cox Entire colonies of Gray-headed Flying Foxes and Black Flying Foxes have been wiped out due to the extremely high temperatures. Often, when the mothers die, their babies are still attached to their teats. Without immediate rescue, these babies will face the same fate as their mothers.
When the baby Bats enter rehabilitation, rescuers’ first jobs are to help the babies feel secure and to feed them. The rubber nipples tucked into the babies’ mouths help them feel as if they are still attached to their mothers’ teats. When the babies are wrapped in tiny blankets (causing the babies to resemble little Bat burritos), they feel safe in their temporary home. A little affection from the rescuers helps too.
After a few months, rescuers will release the baby Bats back into the wild.
Flying Foxes are Bats that feed primarily on fruit, pollen, and nectar. The world's 60 species of Flying Foxes are found in tropical regions. Unlike insect-eating bats, which are usually smaller in size, Flying Foxes do not use echolocation to find food. Instead, they have well-developed senses of smell and eyesight. Many species of Flying Fox are threatened with extinction due to illegal hunting and persecution.