How do you describe a creature who defies all logic? One that melts your heart while it pesters you relentlessly? One that outsmarts you at every turn, while you enjoy the manipulation? We’ve racked our brains for an answer, and always come back to the same description, it’s “Peekaboo.”
Peek-a-Boo came to Bat World Sanctuary via her elderly mother, an Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) who was rescued from deplorable conditions in the fall of 2009. Her mother was housed in a tiny cage with two dozen of her own kind. All of the bats were rescued from a roadside zoo and brought to Bat World Sanctuary. Peekaboo’s mother was among those in the worst shape. The stress of the rescue caused the older mother to abandon one-month old Peek-a-Boo shortly after arriving. She was found hanging from a branch in our large flight cage one morning, alone, cold and crying for food. She was hand raised, along with Edward, a much smaller Carollia infant who had also lost his mother after being rescued.
The two mismatched orphans seemed to find comfort in each others’ companionship. By day they slept cuddled together in a fake lambs wool blanket. In every sense of the word, Peekaboo and Edward appeared to be normal, well-adjusted orphans, much like the others that we’d hand raised over the years. At around four months of age Peek-a-Boo was re introduced into the flight cage, and a few days later Edward followed. This was when all sense of normalcy inside the flight cage entirely disappeared.
For the first few days Peekaboo would leave the other bats and fly to us when we entered the cage, usually landing on our shoulder or back, something which took us by total surprise, but something she apparently felt was the most normal thing in the world for a bat to do. There she would stay, completely content to ride along, while I put the dishes filled with various fruits out for the night’s feeding.The other bats watched, eyes bulging in amazement at the bold new youngster who dared to use the human as a moving perch. She rode the top of our heads, my back, our shoulders, even our faces. It wasn’t long before Edward participated in the game by circling our heads closely as Peek-a-Boo perched on top like a furry crown. There she rode, head held high like royalty as the commoners circling below were reduced to mere flight.
After the dishes of fruit were put out, we had to extract Peekaboo from our bodies in order to leave the flight cage, something she squabbled loudly and incessantly over. The once five minute job of putting out nightly fruit turned into a ten minute ordeal of trying to contain two freshly-plucked tiny feet in the palm of one hand while extracting tiny thumb claws from my shirt with the other hand, only to have the feet pop from my grasp with lightning speed and reattach to a shirt at the precise moment the thumbs were un-plucked.
At first we feared that Peekaboo had imprinted, but as other volunteers entered the picture, it became crystal clear that imprinting had nothing at all to do with it. Peekaboo simply has more personality than one bat can contain. She apparently believes every human was created entirely for her personal enjoyment, to do with as she pleases. She is particularly fond of ponytails, buns, or anyone with longer hair. When she approaches her target, in her hummingbird pattern of flight, she aims for the part of the head that has the most hair mass.
If you are among those with little to no hair mass, then she will simply splat herself on top of your head. Once perched, she usually goes for an ear. All other noise is replaced with loud snuffles as she explores your ear canal with her nose, which happens to fit perfectly inside.
The conditions in which Peekaboo, her mother, and the other bats were rescued were some of the worst we have ever encountered. We are incredibly grateful that we were able to rescue her, along with her roostmates. With us, her personality will never be extinguished from lack of food, lack of cleanliness, over- crowded conditions, or the torment of public display. With us, her personality can flourish with plentiful food, toys, room to fly unencumbered, furry friends of all sizes, and of course, numerous heads on which to perch.