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Sponsor Melody

The containers in which the bats arrived on December 9th, 2016.

On December the 9th we had an odd delivery of two containers (photo right) covered in cloths and found in our delivery hall after we came back from a supply run. The containers held 19 non-releasable bats of various ages including 7 free-tails, 3 big browns, 8 pallid bats and 1 Myotis bat. There was a note attached to one container that read “Please take care of them.”

Melody being taught to self-feed on meal worms while she was healing.

All of the bats had bright eyes and were a good weight so it was obvious that someone had been taking good care of them for quite a while. Some of the bats had injuries that had long since healed except for one little bat—a female free-tail who had a serious injury that resulted in the loss of her wing. The injury was consistent with being hit with the blade of a ceiling fan, but we can only assume that’s what happened to the little female. She was already in the process of healing when she reached us, but we started her on pain medications and antibiotics to speed her healing.

We named the little bat Melody, and during the next few weeks Melody was hand fed twice while also being trained to eat meal worms from a dish (photo right). She thoroughly enjoyed learning and caught on in no time. Being able to self-feed gives disabled bats like Melody a sense of fulfillment, especially after suffering the devastating loss a wing and the sudden inability to catch insects in flight as nature intended.

Melody in the middle, with Boo on the left and Mildred on the right.

Melody’s injury was significant so it took almost three months for her to heal up completely. Once healed, she was able to enjoy the company of others of her kind and quickly made friends with some of the other females at Bat World Sanctuary, including Mildred, another non-releasable free-tailed bat.

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Sponsor Ruffles

The containers in which the bats arrived on December 9th, 2016.

On December the 9th we had an odd delivery of two containers (photo right) covered in cloths and found in our delivery hall after we came back from a supply run. The containers held 19 non-releasable bats of various ages including 7 free-tails, 3 big browns, 8 pallid bats and 1 Myotis bat. There was a note attached to one container that read “Please take care of them.”

All the bats except one had injuries that had long since healed, including Ruffles, who’s ears appeared to be damaged from frostbite. The bats also had bright eyes and were a good weight so it was obvious that someone had been taking good care of them for quite a while.

One of Ruffles’ roost mates (with normal ears) sitting on a simulated rock ledge, enjoying the view.

The bats gradually settled in, making friends with their new free-tail and big brown roost mates. Some of the bats moved into the simulated cave provided for the handicapped bats while the pallid bats chose to move into another simulated cave at the opposite end of the flight area.


Little Ruffles stood out from the group of pallid bats from the very beginning, not only because of his ears, but also from his incredibly sweet personality. His wings have a slight curvature to them, indicating that he may have been rescued as an orphan and developed metabolic bone disease from lack of calcium. The condition rendered him nonreleasable as his flight abilities are severely compromised.

While we have no idea what Ruffles’ life story was or how he came to have such damaged ears, we do know that he is very happy with his life with us. Any condition he may develop in the future will be addressed right away, and he will have the best care we can possibly give him for the rest of his sweet little life.

Footage of the pallid bat cam where Ruffles shares his home with his rootmates.

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Little Ernie

ernie-cuteDuring 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.

ernie-tipLittle 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.

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The Houston Four

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 911Wildlife Logohumane 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.

The Houston Four, fully recovered.
The Houston Four, fully recovered.

 

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Mildred

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 well over a decade 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.

Mildred, safe and sound for the rest of her life

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.

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Boo2

Boo2 showing off his sweet, goofy smile.

Boo2 is an Egyptian fruit bat who was born at Bat World Sanctuary after his mother and seven other bats were rescued by Bat World from the now closed Little River Zoo. They came from a horrible situation.

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 (looking at the camera) with Peekaboo.
Boo2 (looking at the camera) with Peekaboo.
Boo2 inserting himself in front of a morning keeper in order to get another melon treat. An empty fruit kabob is hanging beside Boo2.

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.


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Tinkerbell

Tinkerbell at intake, nursing from a foam tip

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.

Tinkerbell drinking her milk

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 at two months old

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.

Tinkerbell in her bat hut, eating a piece of honeydew melon

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.

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Lil Drac

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.

Lil Drac nursing
Lil’ Drac nursing formula from a foam tip. Click to enlarge.

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.

Lil Drac wing stretch
Lil Drac stretching his wing.

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.

Lil Drac on thumb
Lil Drac falls asleep on his caretakers thumb. Click to enlarge.

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.

 

 

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Peekaboo

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.”

Peekaboo sleeps
Peekaboo sleeping. Click to enlarge.

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.

Peekaboo comforts Edward
Peek-a-Boo comforts Edward on his first introduction to the flight cage. Edward has green markings for quick identification.Click to enlarge.

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.

Peekaboo and Edward games
Volunteer Janette is taken advantage of by Peekaboo while Edward circles in glee. Click to enlarge.

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.

Peekaboo smiles
Peekaboo sits on a volunteer’s shoulder and smiles for the camera.

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.

 

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Little E

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.

Young Little E
Little E, shortly after he was found in 2003. Click to enlarge.

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.

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