She came to us as “Sundar “but her name is now “Poppy”.
In March of 2012, Poppy arrived for a new beginning, so she deserved a new name. She is an Indian Flying Fox (Pteropus giganteus), the second largest species of bat in the world and one of the most spectacular animals on earth. However, despite her magnificence or perhaps because of it, it appeared that for each of Poppy’s 10 years of life before reaching us, she was placed on exhibit and was expected to perform. According to her paperwork, Poppy was trained to do tricks for the public, such as lifting her foot and holding out her wing. It also appeared that Poppy was an unwilling participant. She showed her dislike for the unnatural behavior that was asked of her by biting.
Before she was retired to Bat World Sanctuary we were warned, “She likes to bite.” We have heard those words before, and to a bat specialist it sends warning bells that perhaps the bat is not comfortable in their environment. Poppy was born in a zoo, and although many zoos try and do provide decent care for their bats, for any nocturnal animal, it is a difficult life at best. Zoo hours dictate that bats be displayed during their natural rest time. Additionally, Poppy had been put through a painful and invasive surgery to spay her even though she was purportedly only housed with neutered males.
Poppy’s journey to find permanent sanctuary at Bat World was a long voyage across country borders. She was in transit for approximately 16 hours total. Her trip included a delay at Houston Airport (bypassing our nearby Dallas airport) in order for U.S. Customs to clear her, even though all the necessary paperwork was in order and an agent was secured to expedite her trip. Kate Rugroden, our Director of Special Projects, generously took a vacation day to drive the 5.5 hours to Houston and then 6.5 hours to Bat World Sanctuary to deliver Poppy.
Poppy was shipped in a metal cage that was placed inside a locked wooden box. There were small air holes drilled into the side of the box, but Poppy was unable to see anything outside her sealed container. The box was only two inches taller than she was, so any turbulence would likely cause her to bump her head against the hard metal wire of the cage floor.
Upon arrival, Poppy was understandably very frightened, but she was given time to ‘self release’ from her metal cage by holding it against the ceiling in the fruit bat enclosure, which enabled her to exit on her own. Once she emerged, the other bats appeared to stare in wonderment at the spectacle of her sheer size.
Poppy, a giant among friends, enjoys a bit of melon while hanging beside Peekaboo, an Egyptian fruit bat. A straw-colored fruit bat can be seen to the left, and even smaller Jamaican fruit bats can be seen in the background.
For the first 24 hours she inspected and wandered around our expansive 55’ enclosure, examining toys, sampling sweet potato kabobs and allowing the smaller bats to nuzzle her fur. The following morning we found her nestled in amongst the straw-colored fruit bats and Egyptian fruit bats. She remained very shy for the first few weeks, but her trust appears to be growing. She now comes up for “treat time” with the other bats. Treat time involves small cubes of melon being given out by hand.
It’s obvious that she wants to participate but is too apprehensive to simply “join the crowd.” Instead, she slowly creeps up to the spot where the others are receiving their hand-fed treats and hangs about a foot behind the other bats. Because she is still apprehensive, we have to slowly reach out and offer her a treat while looking in the opposite direction and talking softly. Only then will she timidly take her treat from our extended fingertips.ppy, enjoying her new surroundings which include a toy box full of small vinyl toys, silk foliage and flowers, and other suspended toys that provide enrichment.
We wish to thank the zoo who responsively retired Poppy to our sanctuary. In time Poppy will realize that at Bat World, nothing will ever be expected of her. She will never have to endure crowds of loud people or perform for them, and she will never be disturbed when she should be sleeping. The only thing Poppy will ever need to do again is simply be herself.