We became aware of Baxter’s predicament very early in 2020, when the woman who owned Baxter contacted us asking if we could take him. The woman had a menagerie of exotic animal that she used for education in Minnesota, and she was ready to retire. She stated that she had acquired Baxter 12 years prior and that she needed to place him right away. Of course we immediately agreed to take him.
We also offered to make travel arrangements to get Baxter transported MN to TX but the woman stated that she wanted to drive him to us in April, when the weather was warmer. We wholeheartedly agreed as that would be less stressful for Baxter to be transported by someone he was familiar with.
In our conversations with Baxter’s owner, we learned that he had been purchased at a very young age and that he was in a small cage that did not allow flight. This was very sad for us to hear as his existence all those years could have been happy instead of living a life of total isolation. In fact, most fruit bats do not survive their first year being of being all alone so we were shocked that Baxter had the will to survive, without the company of his kind, for over a decade.
By March, Covid-19 was causing travel restrictions so Baxter’s trip was postponed. As the weeks passed we reached out to Baxter’s owner several times and offered to meet her half way. We explained that if needed, we would drive to her. Additionally, we had a rescue volunteer in MN who agreed to temporarily house Baxter until he could get to us. Baxter’s owner repeatedly declined all of these offers. Then, in July, when we reached out to Baxter’s owner again, she informed us that she was tired of waiting to place him so she had transferred him to a small zoo.
We were confused and found her actions unconscionable, but most of all we were absolutely devastated for Baxter. We pressed his owner and learned that the zoo where Baxter went was actually a wolf center and that Baxter was still alone and confined to a small cage. Outside of being used for an educational exhibit in October, which we noted on the wolf group’s Facebook page, thankfully there would be no benefit for the wolf center to keep Baxter permanently. We then began reaching out to the wolf center to see if they were open to allowing Baxter to retire to Bat World Sanctuary. We hoped that appealing to their sense of compassion might help and explained in great detail that Egyptian fruit bats are highly social and Baxter had already been alone for 12 years. He deserved to live the remaining half of his life with the company of his own kind in a large and enriched flight enclosure.
Unfortunately, this fell on deaf ears so we offered to make a donation to the wolf center for the “release” of Baxter. Sadly, that is what it took to get the lines of communication open. When the wolf center agreed, volunteer Jennifer Danzler immediately booked a flight to MN, secured Baxter and then drove him to Texas. Two short days later Baxter was with us.
When Baxter arrived we were shocked to see that, along with being thin, he had lost most of his teeth. Egyptian fruit bats typically have healthy teeth and rarely have dental issues. Baxter’s tooth loss indicated that he had likely been taken from his mother at a young age and was deprived of the calcium necessary to keep his mouth healthy. Along with this, Baxter was mentally scarred from being all alone for over a decade. He was completely overwhelmed with seeing another bat and began to shake uncontrollably. For this reason, we introduced him to the elderly bats first. The elderly bats live in our “geribatric ward” where they can still see the younger bats in the flight area, however their space is smaller and thickly padded to prevent injuries in case of falls, which elderly bats frequently experience. Baxter quickly grew to trust his new surroundings, especially the elderly Egyptian fruit bats. By the second day he began to cuddle with them almost constantly.
When Baxter was ready, we introduced him to the large flight enclosure and 80+ Egyptian fruit bats who came from similar situations, just like him. We marked his head with green nontoxic paste so we could keep track of him as he settled in. The photos here show Baxter during the introduction.
It is often said that money can’t buy happiness, but in Baxter’s case we believe it truly did.