It is with a heavy heart that we bring you the news that Poppy, an Indian Flying Fox (Pteropus giganteus), has passed away. Poppy came to us in 2012 after being retired from a zoo where she was used for educational programs. She was often expected to “perform” by stretching our her wings, something she grew to dislike and consequently showed her displeasure by biting her handler. After she reached us it took her over a year to trust the fact that nothing would ever be required of her, she simply had to be herself. Over the past few months Poppy had become less active and liked to lay in her hammock where she was close to food and water. She eagerly looked forward to her twice daily treats that were hand delivered to her during daily checks. She left us all too soon on Oct. 27th, after suffering heart problems. Her life was filled with happiness at Bat World Sanctuary; we just wish her time with us could have been much, much longer. Please click here to read more about Poppy’s life with us.
Many zoos provide enrichment and quality of life for the bats in their care and and take the time to neuter male fruit bats to prevent excess reproduction. However, most do not, and bats suffer the horrible consequences. Because of a lack of population control with bats housed in zoos across the US, the bats often abandon their young, suffer from over crowding, lack of enough food and flight space, and early death. In an effort to control excess populations, some zoos resort to outright culling, supplying bats to research (where they are ultimately euthanized) and even supplying unscrupulous pet trade dealers with fruit bats who end up in cramped cages where they are used for breeding. Babies are often ripped away from their mothers and then sold at hundreds to thousands of dollars to the unsuspecting public, as these young bats typically die within their first year when kept as pets.
Below is actual text received from and about accredited and non-accredited zoos across the US over the past few years:
Quotes from individuals regarding the disposal of fruit bats by AZA accredited zoos:
1) “When I told the director that baby vampire bats were being washed down the drain when the exhibit was hosed out, he said “consider it a means of population control.'””
2) “I talked with Ryan, the pet store owner I know, and he found out the Egyptians are from the Memphis Zoo. He has a friend in Austin that bought several. They are all males.”
3) “These are Leaf-nose Fruit Bats from S. America. I have already got the lecture about what zoos are doing with surplus bats. I am not a zoo, and do not agree with most of the things they do. … I am hoping to get some information on this before more babies fail to survive. The ones I have dealt with so far have a good to great appetite, but don’t survive 24 hours.”
4) “It is outrageous the way smaller bats are mis-managed, and a welfare issue. The surpluses available are ridiculous eg 200.200 from Central Park Zoo! …..most zoos are simply not able (or willing) to separate the sexes, and even when they do they often sex the animals incorrectly and one male gets a field day!”
5) “I just received a call from the Cincinnati Museum regarding a man in Cincinnati who owns a pet store. Apparently he is gearing up to accept “leaf-nose fruit bats” from a zoo in NC. This zoo is doling them out much like the other zoo … in FL.”
6) “Apparently it has become routine for zoos to indiscriminately supply the pet trade with their surplus fruit bats. This practice seems highly irresponsible and cruel. What can be done to stop this? Why is population control never considered?”
7) “A friend of mine has recently been given about 200 Leaf-nose Fruit Bats that were left over from a zoo that closed. Many of them have babies or have given birth since he acquired them. Many others appear to be pregnant. Some of the babies have been dropping off and he has not been successful in keeping the alive. He gave two to me…”
8) “I am extremely concerned that bats will end up in the pet trade. … I do not know if this is still happening and if you hear of any please let me know.The Memphis information is disturbing and I will follow up with them. At the very least they should be neutering bats before they send them out…”
9) “I have a group of about 80 Jamaican fruits bats that we have used in testing flight skills. …the Denver Zoo wanted to give me all 400 they have on site if they could have as their situation is out of control.”
Direct quotes made by zookeepers from both accredited and non-accredited zoos regarding fruit bats in their care:
1) “I work with a colony of Seba’s short-tailed bats (Carollia perspicillata) in captivity and lately we have been noticing a dramatic increase in the number of juvenile deaths. We have been unable to determine the reason why and it is driving us crazy! Necropsies have not been helpful the bats are so small that by the time we manage to get them to the necropsy room they are usually autolyzed.”
2) ” … we experienced overcrowding with our Rousettus colony in the past before we made them a single-sex colony and cut down on the number of specimens significantly their reactions were rejecting their babies and engaging in feeding frenzy behavior where they would devour absolutely everything offered to them in record time.”
3) “The injured bats crawl around on the floor sometimes, and are able to fly for very short stints (maybe a couple of seconds, tops); they always return to their little cave, and so really are almost never seen by the public anyway.”
4) “When we had more Jamaicans, we used to get questions from the public about them, because they would crawl on the floor sometimes, but since we now have only 9 left, among all the other bats in the flight, they are hardly even noticed.”
5) “I find it really funny that you have someone looking for Egyptian fruit bats now, because a year ago when we were trying to change over to a single-sex colony, we had so much trouble finding places for them – no one wanted Egyptian fruit bats!”
6) “…about 10 Jamaican fruit bats (all-male and all ancient, the colony has been there since our building opened in 1995, but we are now trying to phase them out),…”
Bats are not disposable commodities, they are thinking, intelligent beings who develop strong -and even lifelong- bonds with family members. Bats are capable of living 25 years or more when provided with a proper environment and care. Bats in the pet trade generally die within the first years due to loneliness, depression and lack of proper care.
Please sign the petition urging the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to immediately stop pushing bats into research and the cruel exotic pet trade, and to neuter all surplus male bats as well as provide an enriched lifetime of care for every bat in their possession.
Everyone can agree how important social media is to a charity in spreading the word about a mission or goal, showcasing their work and why they should be supported, and of course, raising much-needed funds.
This is one of the reasons we have loved Facebook for so many years. We took our fan base from 1,500 to our current number of almost 145,000 in just a few years. These fans are critical to our organization. Our educational and our rescue posts are shared, reaching hundreds of thousands of people around the world, opening more eyes to both the importance and the plight of bats. Our pleas for help are answered by our many loyal (and treasured) supporters. And fundraisers are shared, helping us immensely in our quest to stay afloat and save as many animals as we can in the process. But sadly, all that is changing.
Over the last few months, less and less of our Facebook fans are seeing our posts. One some days we are back to only 1,500 fans seeing our feed – the same number we started with several years ago. There are several changes Facebook made that has caused this. One is not interacting with our page. If you don’t “like” a post we have made or comment frequently, you will stop receiving our posts. But lately even active fans have stopped seeing our daily posts for no reason at all. That’s because of another change made by Facebook: if you want to receive our feed you have to both like our page and also “opt in” to receive our daily posts or you never see one post from us. And yet another change that has occurred is something called “boosting”. If a page like ours wants all of our fans to see a certain post we have made, we have to “boost” that post by paying (advertising) for people who already like our page to see what we have posted. It’s discouraging to say the least.
This is one of the reasons we were excited to learn about a new social media platform called tsu (pronounced “sue”). Tsu is exciting in that your fans are yours to keep until THEY decide otherwise. And even better, tsu shares it’s advertising revenue with all users. Ad revenue is generated by ads appearing on the side of social media pages. The advertising companies pay sites like Facebook and tsu to have their ads appear in feeds. Facebook of course has made millions on revenue from these ads, but tsu actually shares the revenue with users. And the more active a tsu page is and the bigger the fan base, the more a money a tsu user can make. We aren’t talking millions or even thousands, but we are talking hundreds, which isn’t anything to scoff at. Bat World Sanctuary created a tsu page several months ago and we have earned almost $300 with a little over 3,500 fans, and we aren’t near as active (yet) on tsu as we are on Facebook.
We have shared our tsu page a dozen times or more on Facebook in hopes of some of our older fans seeing our page and hoping over to tsu to join us. However, last month I noticed that the posts I made inviting others to join us are VERY limited, with only a few hundred people seeing them. And just today, when I attempted to share a message and an invitation for others to join us on tsu, the post was completely blocked by Facebook.
Of course, it’s a free country and Facebook has the perfect right to not allow posts that involve a competitor, but on the other hand, Facebook is almost forcing people to jump ship.
But it gets worse. I just discovered that several photos I shared on Facebook with “Peekaboo the Smiling Bat” inviting others (in orange text) to join us on tsu were deleted, and the one photo that remains was edited and the content about tsu was removed. The portion of text that was removed included a link to join tsu and read something to the effect of “Peekaboo would like you to join us on tsu, a new social media page…” (Click here to view the edited post.)
Again, it’s a free country and Facebook is perfectly within its rights to run its business however it sees it, but editing our posts to essentially prevent free speech is just plain disturbing. For more proof of Facebook’s banning of tsu posts read this article: “Is Facebook afraid of social network rival tsu?”
Update, Jan. 2016: Facebook decided to once again allow posting links to tsu. However, the previous posts and photos promoting tsu were not restored and the post reach is extremely limited when tsu links are shared (meaning hardly anyone sees the message).
By Amanda Lollar, Founder & President, Bat World Sanctuary
In the early nineties, when I was still new at rehabbing bats, the common belief was that orphaned insectivorous bats could not be released back to the wild because they wouldn’t know how to catch food (according to research, their mothers taught them). After raising several orphans to young adulthood and watching them navigate a flight cage with ease I began to question the notion that they could not be released. After all, it was instinct for these orphans to fly and it was instinct for them to echolocate, so why wouldn’t they use those two skills to find food?
The orphans were rescued from our wild sanctuary of 100,000+ free-tailed bats. I decided to release a few hand-raised flighted orphans the following summer and then track their survival. I devised a way to permanently mark them that would not be detrimental to their health (such as banding, which is highly fatal). I finally decided on a small animal tattoo gun, and I chose the the right earlobe to mark the bat. The ear was chosen because it was easily visible when the bats hang upside down from the rafters. A microbat’s ears are very small so a number system could not be used. Instead I used simple dots. Throughout the nineties the only tattoo paste I found available was black. Then, in the early 2000’s I found green ink and switched to using that. Every orphan released in 2001 had one green dot, those released in 2002 had 2 green dots, and everything from 2003 forward had 3 green dots (because there simply wasn’t enough room on their tiny ears for more dots).
Every summer, after releasing orphans, I searched on a daily basis for a tattooed ear among the tens of thousands of faces and ears in the wild sanctuary. Finally, in 2008, a couple of weeks after releasing orphans, I found one hanging from the rafters. His belly was stuffed full, but with what? Could he have found a lactating female and been lucky enough to adopted by a new mom even though he was basically a teenager? As luck would have it he pooped in my hand when I lifted him off the rafter. This was very exciting because if his poop contained insect parts then it was proof that they could indeed find food on their own. I cradled the precious “sample” in my gloved hang like a teensy nugget of gold, took it back to our facility and examined it under a microscope. Low and behold, there were dozens of insect pieces, including shiny shell fragments from beetles. Finally, proof that insect-eating orphaned bats could be released and learn to forage for insects on their own.
But then more speculation arose: okay, so orphaned bats can be released and even survive, BUT, could they survive the annual migration to Mexico and back, and even raise young of their own? That question was answered when, finally, in 2010, I spotted a beautiful, healthy, lactating female on the rafters of our wild sanctuary with three green dots on her ear. Finding her among 100,000 other bats on the rafters was akin to finding a message in a bottle, something near impossible. She appeared to be around 5 years of age and she was proof that orphaned bats can be released, survive, migrate and even raise young of their own.
Over the past 20 years we’ve received thousands of calls from the public regarding grounded and injured bats. Over all these years I have continued to check the right ear of every single bat that came in, but never saw tattoo. On Sat night, August 15, 2015, around 10:30pm we received a call about a grounded bat in the city park. The bat was hoping on the ground and couldn’t get any lift. The caller had placed the bat into a box and called us right away. After we were back at the facility I had a chance to thoroughly examine the bat. She appeared old and seemed very tired, she had mites covering her wing membrane and her tail was injured. She has been grounded for a while because she was very thin. After hydrating her I did my usual check of the right ear and my jar dropped. There they were – two faded but magnificent green dots on her right ear. That meant she was saved as a starving orphan the summer of 2002, and she was now 13 years old. It took her a little while, but I could tell she slowly started to recognize her surroundings; the roosting pouches, the sounds of the other bats in rehab, and then finally the food, which she gratefully ate. She even nuzzled my finger when I stroked her tiny face after she ate.
The following morning I immediately went to check on her. Sadly, when I removed her from a roosting pouch I could tell she was dying. She passed away a few seconds later, in the same hands that saved her some 13 years ago. I am showing these photos after she died because she should be remembered for all she did during her lifetime. This beautiful, ragged little soul migrated over 30,000 miles on her way to and from Mexico every single year, she likely raised 6 to 8 youngsters of her own, and she ate an estimated 23,725,000 insect pests during her lifetime. And lastly, she is beyond a shadow of a doubt, 100% proof positive that orphaned insectivorous bats can indeed be released to live the rich, full lives they deserve.
Kizmet was a sheltie mix that we rescued from the Mineral Wells Animal Shelter in the year 2000. Unfortunately, she was plagued with health issues from the start due to a suppressed immune system, and within months of being rescued she developed both hip and knee dysplasia which required corrective surgery. Kizmet never missed a beat and overcame all of her handicaps, learning to run and play by hopping with her back legs while running with her front legs. She was an inspiration to every intern and volunteer who came to Bat World Sanctuary.
As Kizmet grew older she retired herself from the position of “dumpster truck alerter” and instead opted for the job of “office shredder”, a position she filled with great enthusiasm. She passed away on May 16, 2015 at 15 years of age. She was a beautiful dog with a tremendous personality and she left a hole in our hearts with her passing.
Fabio, a Jamaican fruit bat, was retired to Bat World Sanctuary in 1994 from a DNA research project involving a dozen of his kind. The project involved taking notices from the ears as well as toe samples from the bats. Understandably, Fabio was very distrusting of humans when he arrived. Outside of routine health checks,. we gave him the space and privacy he needed. In his older years he grew arthritic and needed help grooming his fur, and we gained his trust in the process. During the last three years of his life Fabio was groomed every morning. He grew to love the process as much as we did. Fabio passed away on March 26, 2015 at the age of 22. Rest in peace, sweet Fabio; we still miss you dearly.
We just released four male free-tailed bats who were overwintering with us at Bat World Sanctuary. They had been found trapped in buildings and grounded just as winter set in, so for their own good they spent the winter with us until the weather warmed enough to allow them a safe release.
As typical at this time of year, we’d noticed a pattern of excitement in these boys over the past few weeks, progressing from fidgeting during feeding time to a growing curiosity and restlessness about what lie beyond the clinic walls.
For male bats, the return migration for free-tailed bats begins as early as late January (depending on the weather). In their never-ending quest for love, male bats begin to trickle back into Texas, often the height of winter, to get in before everyone else and scout out ideal spots for bachelor pads. They set up house, settle in, and as I like to imagine, practice their love songs assiduously until the females arrive around March.
This seasonal rite is so hardwired into the bats that despite having been indoors for months, they nevertheless know that it’s time to “get out there”. Like clockwork, the boys begin their harmless squabbling and frantically rubbing their chests and faces on the entries to their selected roosting spots in the hopes that the ladies will like their aftershave. It’s all natural, of course. Very fancy stuff. Between this and their constant impeccable grooming, I’ve come to understand that in their way, the bats dress far, far better than I do.
It’s a humbling thing to realize.
This incredible innate precision isn’t limited to time keeping, however. They’ve been shown to be able to navigate over large distances even when the moon isn’t visible, using only a glimpse of the position of the sun at sunset. Here in Texas, they are often even spotted on Doppler radar in massive swarms, uncannily spherical or crescent shaped in form. These are most often the bats of Bracken cave, which number at a staggering 20 million bats and is thought to be the largest conclave of mammals on Earth. Much of this likely isn’t new information to those who read this blog and follow our efforts to educate on online; it wasn’t anything we staff didn’t already know either. There is, however, a massive difference between having an abstract understanding of the capacities of bats’ sensoriums versus seeing it in action, and in situations where its efficacy seems almost preternatural.
It’s not, of course. It’s as natural as natural gets. Bats merely make us rethink what natural or normal is. They are incredibly long-lived for small mammals, and their roles in their respective ecosystems are far more foundational than is common for Class Mammalia. They are the only creatures other than birds and insects that are capable of true flight, and their dispositions are completely at odds with their unjustly sinister reputation.
They embody a conundrum that many of the brightest minds humanity has produced have pondered since the mind was first able to ponder. Perhaps we can sense this about them; perhaps this is why they have so persistently captured our collective imagination and become icons and archetypes both innate to and beyond what they really are.
One thing is for sure: the benefits of bats run the entire gamut, from maintaining the foundation of their ecosystems to the inspiring of philosophical contemplation. All animals should be valued, but it has to be said that few are so richly beneficial to all aspects of our existence in this world.
Judging from the enthusiastic response on our Facebook page and the activity in our chat room, most of you will already be aware of the four bat cams streaming live 24/7 in the flight enclosures.
This was a big step for us. It’s been one of Bat World’s missions to show that bats are undeserving of the sinister reputation that has plagued them for centuries and there’s no better way to dispel the myths than to show them and how they react naturally and interact with their caregivers. Many, many people have seen movies depicting bats as vicious, evil beings so it gives us immense pleasure to show them in a new light, their natural light, illuminated by authenticity rather than unimaginative fiction.
There’s never been a good way to let people actually see how inquisitive and playful they are. Their antics are the subject of a lot of discussion around the office here at Bat World, and we are the ones who are fortunate enough to see it everyday. Now any supporter can watch a video stream in the evenings and see fruit and insect bats live and play in a surrounding that is as close to their native environment as is possible; short of setting up cameras in a rain forest that is.
The Dropcam software even allows you to go back through the previous night’s footage the next morning and identify moments of high activity so that particularly interesting events can be quickly isolated. It also enables us to convert these moments into educational, heartwarming and even comical videos.
That is the best thing about these cameras: capturing those little moments and learning small details that would otherwise go undocumented, even with nocturnal observation in the wild because all predation and the struggle to survive at the hands of man has been removed. They are safe and able to play as nature intended before the cruelty of humans entered their world. The cameras are small, surrounded by foliage and very unobtrusive, whereas a human observer would cause many of the bats to simply pay attention to them rather than be themselves, no matter how familiar that individual might be to the bats.
Being inquisitive and playful much of the first night’s footage was of curious bat snouts probing the camera, or the lens being covered by wings as they outright landed on it for a thorough examination. Still, in the end, the cameras have become just another fixture in their playground and they are free to be themselves. It was such a heartfelt moment to know that we could bring our supporters the joy the bats experience from the new toys that are frequently sent by donors.
To our knowledge, this sort of free interaction among a sizable colony of bats can’t be seen anywhere else. In the streams you can watch both fruit and insect bats play, groom, solve enrichment puzzles, and mingle freely not only with those different from themselves, but those of entirely different species. We invite those who are interested in them to indulge, those who are put off by their undeserved reputation to disabuse themselves of erroneous preconception, and everyone to burn through far too much free time than intended watching this unprecedented window into their lives.
It all suggests that perhaps nobody is better at advocating for bats than the bats themselves.
Despite my prediction that the impish Carollias (think Lil Drac) would be first, it was the ordinarily skittish Egyptians – with Peek-a-boo leading the charge – that flew the first quick and wary circles around the newly completed semi-outdoor flight enclosure as soon as the sun had set. Once around, then back home as fast as their wings could carry them.
As the others watched the first bats return unharmed, more joined them for the next foray, then more still, then even more. With each of their roundabout reconnaissance, they collectively gathered more information, sharing it with each squeak and squawk and call. Before long, they sought out the foliage shrouded hiding places of the enclosure and tentatively hung from them to get a longer, deeper look at this huge, mysterious new place with its unfamiliar sounds of the night and freshness to its air.
It was bigger than their indoor enclosure but in most other respects it was very similar. Natural, locally harvested grapevine snaked across the ceiling to simulate the trees of their native habitats. Foliage and flowers hung in abundance, giving them plenty of places to congregate and feel secure. Toys dotted the ceiling as well, so that they’d never be bored. All of it was arranged to provide for clear pathways for flight, yet with density enough for everyone to have something to play with.
While they liked all this, and while the familiarity lent this new place a comfort that put them at ease, there was one crucial thing that they’d never had before, that many of them had never even been fortunate enough to witness before: moonlight; nature’s oldest gift to bats.
It’s one of the many tragedies of fruit bats trapped in the pet trade, in substandard zoos and in research; nearly all of them are born, live and die without ever getting to experience the very night with which they are so attuned. Even at the original Bat World the nature of the building made it impossible to expose them to a natural day/night cycle. We simulated it with the carefully designed indoor lighting, being brought down in levels until complete darkness overtook the facility each evening but it wasn’t and could never be the same because we could never give them the moon.
They had it now and despite the tumult of the recent move and having only just adapted to their new home, they rushed to this natural gift from Mother Nature. Watching their excitement, it was clear that we’d given them something they’d been yearning for all their lives.
By the second night they populated the enclosure as if it had always been there. They brought food outside to eat, even carried toys with them, congregated in their roosts and generally acted as playfully as ever. There was a single moment for each of us as we witnessed the incredible joy of these miraculous creatures and the welling of tears was not to be restrained, it was too special of a moment; the kind of thing that you remember forever.
The truly great thing about the semi-outdoor enclosure, however, is that the climate here in North Central Texas is almost perfect for it. Temperatures can drop down to the mid-50s before it becomes uncomfortable or unsafe for them, but for 9-10 months out of the year it never gets that cold. They were even able to get a few nights “outside” in early December. This will be something they’ll be able to enjoy nearly all year long.
Short of being located in a tropical climate, it could not have worked out any better.