During the summer months, hundreds of Brazilian free-tailed bat mothers set up nursery colonies in the attics of vacant buildings in a dilapidated part of a nearby town. Occasionally, a baby bat will become orphaned from the mother not returning to the roost for various reasons including being injured in a storm or becoming the victim of a predator such as an owl, hawk or human. Orphaned bats go in search of mom and often end up grounded on the outside of the buildings, so Bat World volunteers walk the area early every summer morning to look for pups that can be saved.
“Little Ernie” survived despite tremendous odds being stacked against him. He was stuck inside a old, vacant building for at least two days before being accidentally spotted through a glass door on July 14, 2016 by volunteer Moriah. Luckily we were able to find the building owner (Ernie B.) and we called him immediately. Ernie B. said he would go check and see if the bat was still there and call us back. A short while later he returned our call and said the little bat was already dead.
Later that night we went to check the area again and decided to recheck the building, just in case. We immediately spotted the same little bat behind the glass door, very much alive and struggling to find a way out. He was covered in dust and laying on the floor with a large amount of debris clinging to his little feet, which he dragged behind him as he feebly crawled across the floor. It was easy to tell by the way that he was moving that he was very weak from the weight of the debris as well as a lack of food and water. Periodically he would stop and rest, which made him look deceased.
We called Ernie B. again and thankfully he was available to come and open the door so we so we could rescue Little Ernie.
Little Ernie’s strong will and determined personality helped him survive the odds that were stacked against him. But as it turned out, Little Ernie was born with deformed fingertips which will prevent him from ever flying free, so being stuck behind those glass doors at the right time were the best odds he could have hoped for.
Ernie will never again have to beat the odds. He will be cared for at Bat World Sanctuary for the rest of his life, where the odds are always stacked in his favor.
On February 3rd, 2016, a plea for help on our Facebook page about an issue in Houston, Texas that involved an elderly woman beating free-tailed bats with her cane. The news video that was included made it appear as though the woman was helpless and the bats were invading her home. However, free-tailed bats are shy and secretive. They hide in cracks and crevices as well as attics and caves. They do not hang out in the open. These bats would have to be pulled out of their roost in order to be beaten. Free-tailed bats have an intelligence level equivalent to that of dolphins. They have a complicated social structure that includes over 25 different vocalizations that make up their language. Mother free-tails only have one young per year and if anything happens to her pup, a mother will openly grieve for days with her mournful cries. Free-tailed bats are capable of eating up to 5,000 harmful flying insects nightly and they have a lifespan of over 15 years. Each bat that this woman killed had the potential of eating 27,375,000 harmful insects in its lifetime.
Because Houston is 300 miles from Bat World Sanctuary, we immediately alerted rescuers in the area well as Marcelino Benito, the reporter at KHOU 11 news who covered the story and asked to be contacted if anyone could help. We left messages with Mr. Benito through email and his Facebook page that night as well as the following morning. We also put in calls first thing the following morning to our local game warden, KHOU 11 news, and our good friends at 911Wildlife, a humane exclusion company who works on behalf of wildlife as well as people. 911Wildlife was founded by Bonnie Bradshaw, a fellow wildlife rehabilitator. With offices throughout Texas, including Houston, they were able to immediately respond to this tragedy. 911Wildlife arrived at the woman’s house early that same morning and donated their time and equipment to humanely exclude the bats so no more would be needlessly killed. They also did a thorough search for survivors. Sadly, only five bats out of potentially hundreds survived her beatings. The 911Wildife crew transferred these tiny, broken souls to a local rescuer we had on standby, and the Houston Five are now with Bat World Sanctuary.
Later, we sent an email to Mr. Benito asking why he didn’t actually seek help for this woman. Having access to the internet granted him a wealth of information he could have easily used to help her. Instead, he chose to demonize bats in his report while filming her sickening brutality -which had apparently been going on for years. Mr. Benito never responded to any of my emails or Facebook messages, nor the messages of dozens of other conservation-minded supporters. Many people wrote to express their extreme disappointment at the lack of any helpful information that KHOU 11 news provided for this woman or the bats. Instead, they chose to sensationalize bats and deepen the fears of people who don’t know better.
The five bats were transferred to a rescuer we had on standby, and the following evening they arrived at our rescue center Bat World MidCities where Kate Rugroden, our Director of Special Projects stayed up most of the night treating and stabilizing their injuries. Sadly, one of the five survivors, Ella, died the following morning.
If there is a brighter note to this story it is that dozens of people came together in a show of concern for these bats and the elderly woman as well. And best of all, this colony of bats will no longer be in harms way since they have been humanely excluded. A very special thank you to Bonnie and her crew at 911Wildlife – the bats would not have had a chance without your intervention. Thank you, Marsha P., who remained on standby to receive the bats and thank you, Marzi P., who made an 11-hour trip in one day to transport the bats back to our Mid-Cities rescue center.
The remaining survivors, Timmy, Dash, Jane Ann, and Bee have fully recovered and will live their lives at our Bat World MidCities rescue center. Going forward, the Houston Four will always know the peace, comfort and respect they so deserve.
Before Mildred came to us she’d accomplished quite a lot on her own. While she called the decades-old bat colony in the heart of downtown Mineral Wells, TX home, each winter this tiny, inch-long bat would fly out one night with the rest of her colony and head for Central America to escape the cold. Each spring she would return to reform their community, raise her pup and keep people who didn’t even know she existed free of insect pests and free to enjoy the night in peace, as she did. As the years took their toll, the migrations felt longer, gravity felt stronger and the heavy demands of motherhood grew heavier. Sometime over the years Mildred lost the tip of her tail, but for approximately eighteen years she persevered, until one day the rigors of it all became too much for her and she found herself grounded.
One thing saved her: she finally succumbed in her Texas home, and that home is a wild sanctuary under the care of Bat World. A volunteer found her starving and dehydrated, still pressing onward as best she could to crawl toward some kind of safety. She was rescued and she quickly recovered to the point where she would ordinarily be returned to the wild.
There were two problems, however. It was immediately clear that she loved being at Bat World Sanctuary. She took to her caretakers very quickly, and learned to feed herself from the meal worm dishes which is very unusual for a bat of her age. After just a few days it was clear that she liked them very much as she grew rounder and rounder.
It was also clear that the old age that grounded her would only do so again if she were to be released. Time had worn her teeth down so that she’d have had trouble grabbing insects from the air and holding onto them. It had likely made feeding difficult for her for some time and was almost certainly the problem that had caused her to almost starve. Having worked so hard for so long she deserved an easy retirement, and so she was given one. Mildred will live out her life at Bat World with many other old friends rescued from that same colony, where flying is simply for the joy of it, and plentiful food will never be out of her reach.
An individual who was hired to “liquidate” the zoo’s animals called us about placing the remaining 8 bats. Sadly, the others had been sold to the cruel exotic pet trade. This individual originally planned to keep the remaining 8 bats and breed them, selling the “stock.” Thankfully, we talked her out of it, and all eight bats made it safely to Bat World Sanctuary in Sept of 2011. Boo2’s mother was pregnant when she arrived and Boo2 was born a few months later.
Boo2 became best buddies with Peekaboo, an Egyptian fruit bat who was rescued from similar conditions in 2009. It was this friendship that earned him the name Boo2. Peekaboo and Boo2 love to spend time with each other and are never seen far apart.
Boo2 has so much personality that we have nicknamed him the “cage clown.” He’s never seen without an endearing, goofy grin on his face. Twice daily, keepers conduct visual exams of the bats under the guise of doling out melon treats to any bat who will take one. Boo2 positions himself in front of the keeper in any way possible in order to receive treat after treat.
We are so grateful to have rescued Boo2 from the dire conditions to which he would have been born, and a situation from which he most likely would have perished. Thank you to all who adopt and support Boo2 so that he and his kind can live a protected, happy and enriched life at Bat World Sanctuary.
Tinkerbell, a Jamaican fruit bat, is a sweet natured and endearingly odd little bat. To know her, you’d never think that her coming into the world had been so heartbreakingly grim.
Her mother was one of the many unfortunate bats that had become ensnared in the exotic pet trade, where bats inevitably live short lives of loneliness and terror. Like so many others in her predicament, Tinkerbell’s mother languished in a captivity wholly unsuited for bats and eventually died giving birth to her daughter. When Tinkerbell arrived at Bat World Sanctuary, she was, as is sadly common for bat pups whose mothers have died in childbirth, still clinging to her mother’s body.
Thankfully, things took a turn for the better; her owner, likely looking for ways to care for a newborn bat, came across Bat World’s Facebook page and learned how hard a pet’s life is for bats. It was too late for Tinkerbell’s mother, but not Tinkerbell herself, and the owner delivered the newborn to Bat World Sanctuary and asked us to keep spreading the word about keeping bats as pets. Were it not for her owner’s kind heart and willingness to admit she’d been wrong, Tinkerbell likely wouldn’t have made it either.
Tinkerbell was hand-raised at Bat World and has grown into a healthy and slightly eccentric adulthood. For whatever reason, be it her traumatic entry into the world or simply her odd little personality, she insists on roosting and eating by herself in the “bat hut” that serves as the halfway house for new arrivals. The bat hut is meant as temporary security for orphaned bats who are learning to adapt to the flight cage, but Tinkerbell has made it her permanent home. It’s not that Tinkerbell fears the other bats; she plays and flies alongside them nightly, and even enjoys visitors that pass through her bat hut. Tinkerbell simply values her solitude.
Since deciding to call the bat hut her permanent home, Tinkerbell now serves as a welcoming committee to newly arriving orphaned bats. She allows the youngsters to roost and cuddle with her inside the bat hut, and in doing so eases their transition to hubbub of the flight cage.
In the wild, Tinkerbell’s solitary nature would deny her the protection of numbers and could put her in danger, but here at Bat World she has a place all her own. And if she wants company, there are over a hundred of her best friends no more than a wing flap away. We may not know why she lacks some of the social impulses that are so strong within other bats, but one thing’s for sure, her days of suffering and loss are over.
Lil Drac is an orphaned short tailed fruit bat (Carollia perspicillata). He is also known as the “lil bat who rocked the world” after his video (below) went viral in November of 2011.
Lil’ Drac’s mother was yet another casualty from zoo closures which have occured across the US. She was a young mother who was stressed from the conditions in which she was kept, combined with the additional trauma of being captured and transferred to a new and unfamiliar environment. Consequently, she abandoned Lil Drac after he was born.
He was found on the padded floor of the indoor flight enclosure at Bat World Sanctuary, curled up in a little ball. He was warmed, comforted and fed, then moved into an incubator so he would stay warm at all times. He quickly learned to nurse his milk formula from a foam tip and looked forward to feeding time. He also loved to groom his tiny body and stretch and flap his minuscule wings. Just a few days after he was rescued we learned that he liked to rock himself back and forth after he had eaten and after he had groomed.
When Lil Drac was old enough, he was slowly reintroduced back into the flight cage to be with other of bats of his own kind.
He slept by day in the incubator, and was moved into a netted basket to spend his nights in the flight enclosure. The basket protected him and allowed him to feel safe while getting to know the other bats.
Lil Drac was given practice flight lessons and in a few weeks, when he was flying well enough, the netting over the basket was lifted so he could fly in and out at will.
Lil Drac now lives with his bat friends full time, and he still loves to rock himself.
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.
Imagine being a young, female fruit bat; one amongst scores of others. You are pregnant, and the zoo in which you live is closing. Time is running out, and you need to be disposed of. Humans arrive and start grabbing other bats –your friends, your family, and then they grab you and put you in a box. Humans have never been especially kind to you. You were always frightened when they brought in the pressure hoses to wash your cage, and you are even more frightened now.
You are in the box for a long time, you feel it vibrating and moving, and you hear the muffled voices of the humans from time to time. You have no idea what is happening, or if you will live or die, and you feel terrified. Suddenly, you find yourself being removed from the box and realize you are at a new location. There are vines, and flowers, and brightly colored toys, room to fly, and other bats as well. There are all sorts of places to hide, but you do not know if you can trust the humans so you try to hide. Everything bad that has ever happened to you has been because of humans. The food at your new home is fresh and tastes good, but the humans bring it, so you stop eating every time they come near. Then suddenly, your labor pains start. Your baby is coming. He is a very big baby, and you feel weak, confused and frightened. Your newborn baby falls away from you and onto the padded floor. You want to help him but you are too weak, and the humans may come back so you just continue to hide.
This is how Cornelius, a baby Jamaican fruit bat, entered the world. We understood the trauma his mother went through, she was not to blame for abandoning him. She had no way of knowing that her former life was far behind her, and that she was now safe and would be forever taken care of.
Thankfully, we are skilled at taking care of orphaned baby bats. Soon after Cornelius was found, he was quickly rushed to Bat World’s recovery area to be examined. We wrapped him in a warm gauze blanket and gave him the formula he needed to survive. He ate greedily. Besides being a large baby, he was strong and healthy from the start.
As the weeks turned into months, our dedicated Facebook fans followed his progress from his newborn days in his incubator, through his early days, when he was weaned on banana, to moving into the flight enclosure with all the other bats, including his mother.
Today, Cornelius is a healthy, well-adjusted bat who appears to be aware of how special he is. Because he has never been subjected to bright lights, the noise of crowds of human visitors on a daily basis and the scary-sounding blasts of pressure hoses, he actually seeks out the kindness of humans to give him a special a treat of honeydew melon. He even flies over to his caretakers to retrieve it
We hope that Cornelius can somehow convey to his mother that not all humans are bad, some humans only want what is best for them. Cornelius is an extremely happy, trusting little fellow, so we can’t help feeling that before too long, his happiness and trust in his caretakers will rub off on his sweet but timid mom.
We are forever grateful to our Facebook fans for helping Cornelius and supporting his care, including the incubator in which he was raised.
Every year we rescue dozens of free-tail orphans (Tadarida brasiliensis) from our wild sanctuary in Mineral Wells, TX. Prior to their release back into the colony, the right ear of each orphan is tattooed with two to three very small dots. After all releases into our wild sanctuary, the building is checked daily for possible sightings. It’s very hard to spot one particular bat amongst the thousands roosting on the rafters. However, over the years we have been lucky enough to sight several orphans that were doing well after release.
In the summer of 2003 one of our orphans was released a bit later than normal. He was a large boy, an adequate flier, but not quite strong enough for the usual release time in August. One month later he was ready to go. He received a tattoo of three green dots (see photo) and was then released with with three adults into our wild sanctuary on September 17th.
On September 22nd we received a call from one of our local members who lives on the outskirts of Mineral Wells, about 8 miles from the wild sanctuary. She is an environmentally conscious individual who rescues various animals, including cows and horses, and has often described the swarms of bats that forage over her hay fields. She called us with concern for three bats that were hanging low on the side of her house, about two feet off the ground.
It was dawn when her ranch hand, Ermin, first saw them huddled together on the wall out in the open (a very unusual behavior for free-tailed bats). Within a few minutes two flew away, but one remained. Free-tailed bats have been observed providing “support” for their roostmates in captivity; from everything to having a toenail temporarily caught in roosting pouch fabric to giving birth. The two bats that flew away may have been providing support for the bat that stayed behind.
We were amazed to find that the remaining bat was the orphan we released five days earlier. He was hanging weakly from the side of the white brick home. Sadly, he was very thin. However, it was still good to know that instinct had kicked in and he was foraging with others over open fields. It was also good to find that some of the bats from our wild sanctuary forage in a relatively safe area, free of pesticides. It is unfortunate, however, that the orphan proved true the adage “only the strong survive.” He simply wasn’t one of the strong.
The minute we arrived back at Bat World the little bat knew where he was. He perked up considerably and couldn’t wait to jump into a soft roosting pouch. He was examined and hydrated, then fed a rich meal of blended insects. After his tiny belly was full he fell to sleep, cuddled up with some of his old roostmates that were still in rehab.
We are grateful knowing the little bat is safe and sound. He’s been named “Little E” after Ermine. His permanent home is now at Bat World. Little E is just not good at being a bat, but here, it doesn’t matter. He can fly safely within the confines of a flight cage every night, snuggle with roostmates every day, and eat food that is always catered.
So often we are asked, “How is it that you have bats from around the world? From where do you get your bats?” Well, the majority are obtained from the general public; people who find orphans or a bat laying helpless in a parking lot. Orphans also come from our wild sanctuary, and still others are retired from zoos and research, and are seized from the illegal pet trade. And then there is the rare exception—the bat that arrives without our knowledge; the special package concealed in a mother’s tummy. It is about this exceptional life that we bring you the story of an infant straw colored fruit bat that arrived on May 18th, 2007.
Bianca, the mother, was brought to us in March of 07. She had suffered inhumane circumstances so we gave her a lot of space in order to gain her trust. It was rewarding to watch her slim frame grow larger with the plentiful food she now receives. But based on experience, the roundness that developed over the next few months was unmistakable. Bianca was with pup.
A few evenings later we heard the calls of a newly born bat pup and went into the fruit bat’s flight cage expecting to see that all was well. However, instead of clinging to Bianca’s stomach, the pup was dangling from her back. Bianca resisted any help when we gently tried to scoot the baby around to her front, making a hasty retreat and almost knocking her pup loose as she dragged it along the plastic screening of the cage.
The pup desperately hung on for dear life but the mother made no attempt to help it. We kept a watchful eye on the pair for the next hour, noting sadly that the mother was not attempting to nurse or even nurture her pup. Two hours passed, and on our last inspection at midnight we found the precious baby girl lying cold on the floor of the flight cage.
The pup’s tiny form was quickly gathered and warmed as we took her into the hospital area, where it was discovered that her toes were severely damaged, most likely from being dragged along the screen mesh of the cage. She would never have a quality life if we did not save her toes. We had to quickly devise a means to protect them. We used finger cots to cover her injured feet, filling them with antibiotic ointment before slipping them over her tiny feet. Pain medication and antibiotics were also administered.
Days passed. The tiny girl clung to life, despite her cold introduction to life. She looked forward to her meals, greedily sucking down her goats-milk formula from a small latex puppy nurser. Weeks passed and her toes slowly healed. Eventually her little protective ‘boots’ were no longer needed.
It was time to give this special girl a name. As luck would have it, an internet search of African names brought us “Busana – Girl of the Night Moon”. Because of her special circumstances we decided on a slight variation, ‘Bootsanna’. For the first 10 weeks of her life Bootsanna carried a soft puppy nurser (her pacifier) in her mouth all the time and yelled whenever she dropped it. She continued to yell – almost brat-like – until someone placed it back into her mouth. At around 10 weeks of age she decided banana was better than a nurser, so solid food (which she also yelled for) was slowly introduced. Every day Bootsanna was also given flapping exercises, as much as she enjoyed.
She spent loads of time playing on her two baskets; one was used for feeding and playtime and another one was used for sleeping. Bootsanna loved to ‘bat at’ her numerous toys and silk flowers, spending a hour or more entertaining herself before sleep would finally overtake her. Eventually we were able to hang her basket inside the fruit bats flight cage so she could slowly get used to the other fruit bats.
Bootsanna is able to hang up-side down and is now living full time with the fruit bats in their large, natural habitat flight cage. She is enjoying her rightful place in just being a bat.