Roxy was born a year ago yesterday at the Oregon Zoo. She’s a Rodrigues flying fox, a critically endangered species of bat. Keepers hand-reared her after she was rejected by her mom.
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.
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).
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.
The Christmas season is over, but it came early for Cango Wildlife Ranch, in South Africa… bearing the most precious gifts of life! They weren’t just blessed with one or two little bundles of joy; the storks were working overtime as they reached a record high 18 babies for the month of December!
Cango staff are still beaming from ear to ear... just like proud parents. They had an incredible litter of six Cheetah cubs born at the private reserve on November 16. The cubs are strong and healthy, as is mom.
As you can imagine, the only thing cuter than one Cheetah cub is six of them! They currently receive around-the-clock care at the C.A.R.E.S. (Care and Rehab of Endangered Species) facility, and will move to the ranch in early January. The cubs provide valuable new bloodlines, which will form part of Cango’s Cheetah Preservation Program and on-going conservation efforts throughout the next decade.
The season of excitement spread from six Cheetahs to a pair of twins! Picture a Lemur right out of the movie Madagascar---with a gorgeous long black and white striped tail curved overhead, bright orange eyes as wide as the sun and a fluffy grey body. Upon taking a closer look, there are four tiny hands wrapped around her body, closely nestled on her chest are her tiny clones with stringy tails and eyes wide and alert in their big bobble-heads. Too perfect for words! Whilst mom soaks up the morning sun, the babies get a little braver and often attempt to ‘venture’ off into the unknown, but the big adventure is never more than half a meter away and they clumsily hop back to mom. One can watch them for hours until they all curl up in a big ball to take an afternoon nap.
Cango’s next baby was born in their Wallaby Walkabout. Now as cute as all the babies are, staff are confident that the new little Joey is more than likely hogging second place. He finally revealed himself by peeking out of his moms pouch! Talk about luxury living… the little Joey enjoys around-the-clock climate control, all cushioned and snug, full ‘room-service’ for meals with all the safety features of a protective mom all in her pouch! He has since started braving the big world…. He often falls out of mom’s pouch but stays close and attentive at all times. At the sight of an intimidating dove, he hops back to mom and dives headfirst into her pouch, often forgetting that his lanky legs are still sticking out.
Photo Credits: Cango Wildlife Ranch
All the animal mommies are doing a phenomenal job caring for their young ones but credit must be given to Cango Wildlife Ranch’s wonderful team of hand-raisers, as well. They have had their hands full over the past month. At times, it is vital to intervene and care for babies to ensure survival. Each and every life is important to them, and they endeavor to go above and beyond to ensure they provide the utmost care to every single animal at the facility. They often act as mums, when the real moms aren’t able.
Currently, two Swainsons Lorikeet chicks (as well as two eggs being incubated), two gorgeous little Von Der Decken’s Hornbills, one bright-eyed Malayan Flying Fox (bat), and four incredible Spotted Eagle Owls are in the hands-on care of staff at the Ranch.
The Lorikeets often need to be hand-raised, due to the larger males feeding on the eggs. Staff incubates all the eggs in the C.A.R.E.S. Centre and then cares for the hatchlings until they are on solid food and can return to the aviary. This also results in very special bonds formed between the birds and carers.
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.
These amazing photos of Spectacled Flying-Fox orphans are courtesy of NightWings Rainforest Centre in Queensland, Australia. They are just some of the Flying-Foxes that received hands-on care in 2014.
Photos Courtesy: NightWings Rainforest Centre
NightWings Rainforest Centre is still working on completing their bat hospital, nursery and visitor centre. They anticipate being open for the public by 2016 or 2017. Until then, there are dedicated workers who are busy, behind the scenes, with the daily business of rescuing and hand-rearing Spectacled Flying-Fox orphans.
Listed as “Vulnerable” under EPBC (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of Australia) status, the Spectacled Flying-Fox is a large, gregarious bat that roosts in daytime camps. They fly out at night to feed on native fruits and blossoms, with most camps being within 7 km (4 mile) of rainforest. Geographically confined to far north Queensland, Australia, this species is considered a keystone species, with foraging activities resulting in dispersal of pollen and seeds; playing a key role in the reproductive and evolutionary processes of other species and ecological communities. This species is in trouble, with pressure from urbanization, habitat fragmentation, loss of food resource, tick paralysis, and both legal and illegal shooting around orchards. The NightWings founders are all committed bat carers, and the NightWings Rainforest Centre will be helping these animals in 2 ways: the 15 hectare (37 acres), 70,000 tree planting will provide an area of year-round native fruit from multiple rainforest tree species, and the visitor centre (proposed for completion around 2016/17) will feature a full-time bat hospital, nursery and interpretive centre.
Last year the Lubee Bat Conservancy in Gainesville, Florida welcomed twelve bat pups, including the rare birth of twins by mother Variable Flying Fox "Charisma." This organization is dedicated to conserving "fruit and nectar" bats because these animals are vital to pollination and seed dispersal in many of the world's jungles. The evolutionary origins of bats are a subject of much debate but they are most certainly NOT flying rodents. Once thought to be more closely related to shrews and hedgehogs, recent genetic evidence suggests bats may be more closely related to carnivores like bears, dogs and cats.
A Large Flying Fox pup clings to a stuffed animal
Large Flying Fox pup and mom. Above photo credits: D. LeBlanc / Lubee Bat Conservancy
Rare Variable Flying Fox pup twins with mom. Photo credit: S. Mulder, Lubee Bat Conservancy