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Bootsanna

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.

Bootsanna's injured feet
Bootsanna shortly after she was found. Finger cots were placed over her injured feet. Click to enlarge.

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.

Bootsanna at breakfast
Bootsanna eating her breakfast of steamed apples and goats milk. Click to enlarge.

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.

Bootsanna playing
Bootsanna playing with toys in her basket. Click to enlarge.

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.

Bootsanna hanging
Beautiful Bootsanna, hanging normally with her healed feet. Click to enlarge

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.

 

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Mini-Me

The phone rang at 6:30 on a Monday morning in April 2005. A man stated he had three Egyptian fruit bats, a mother, father and baby. He had been keeping them as pets but now wished to them place at Bat World. He would not give his name or say where he had obtained the bats; he simply said he was not being fair to them. He said he had happened upon our Spring ’05 issue of Bat World News, and after reading our article on the inhumane practice of keeping fruit bats as pets he realized he was not giving them what they needed. He had them for a year and never put them in a flight cage.

Mini-Me in hand
Mini-Me when she first arrived. Click to enlarge

He said he had researched our website and thought perhaps that was why the last baby had died. He did not want this one to perish as well. He seemed genuinely upset by any harm he may have caused the bats. We commended him for his honesty and compassion for the animals and assured him they would have the life they so richly deserved – they would be given the necessary diet, have toys for enrichment, roosts of their choice, they would be examined daily and most of all they would be with their own kind, flying as much as they liked. When he left he looked very relieved, then he simply disappeared around the corner.

The baby was undersized and underweight, but otherwise, the trio appeared healthy so they were allowed to join the other fruit bats in their new home. Over the next few days the baby was found alone and her mother seemed disinterested despite her baby’s attempt to nuzzle with her. Fortunately, the baby was old enough to begin eating solid foods, so we encouraged her to to eat fruit by placing tiny bits of banana in her mouth. She learned almost immediately, so she was given all the tiny pieces of fruit she could eat in a modified cup, just her size.

Mini-Me and Cleobatra
Mini-Me and Cleobatra

It wasn’t long before the tiny girl discovered our Egyptian fruit bat matriarch, Cleobatra, roosting in her favorite hammock and resting her crippled toes. When the tiny girl attempted to snuggle with Cleo, she nuzzled the baby’s beautiful little face and seemed to tuck the baby under her wing. As the days passed the baby continued to roost next to Cleobatra. At times she looked like a miniature version of Cleo, even mimicking Cleo’s posture and actions. It wasn’t long before she earned the name “Cleobatra Mini-Me”, or Mini-Me, for short. Although Mini-me is growing bigger and stronger by the day, she remains undersized. Mini-Me seems extremely happy here at Bat World, unaware that she is so tiny. To this day she continues to roost with Cleobatra.

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Sticky

There was no knock at the door or phone call to alert us that a bat had been placed into the rescue box at the back door. But the red flag attached to the side of the box was raised, so we found him shortly thereafter. Apparently his rescuers thought they would be responsible for the harm that had befallen the bat, when in actuality, they had saved his life. He was wrapped in a washcloth, which when removed revealed a big brown bat completely enveloped in a full coil of fly paper. Several areas of his skin and fur were pulled and stretched tightly from his helpless attempts to free himself from the substance that covered his body. Unfortunately, the more he fought, the more he became entangled.

Sticky, all cleaned up. Click to enlarge.

For three hours we worked on freeing him from his torturous prison. The fly paper covered his face, wings, body, legs and toes. It was the worst case of this sort that I have ever seen. Cotton swabs soaked in mineral oil helped to remove the gluey mess from his delicate skin, and scissors were used to clip the huge areas of fur from his body. After his small body was freed, he had to be bathed and dried, then thoroughly checked over. It usually takes several baths to remove all the traces of glue and oil. Yet despite the stress and pain he endured during the process of removing the sticky substance from his tender skin and once beautiful fur, he seemed grateful.

Unfortunately, much of his wing membrane was damaged and torn from his struggles. It appeared the “Sticky” was here to stay. However, the worst of the damage from flypaper is not readily obvious. Bats often ingest small globs of glue trying to clean the paper off themselves. This glue forms a mass inside the intestines that can lead to an obstruction and death. Sticky survived the cleaning process, but it was several days before we were positive he had no internal blockages. Through it all, Sticky’s sweet nature endured. Sticky was one of the lucky ones, he survived. But he cannot sustain flight for long periods of time so he is now a permanent resident at Bat World Sanctuary. He spends his time enjoying the company of his own kind in a natural habitat flight cage.

Please remember, flytraps are often ineffective, but if you must use them please fashion a wire cover around them allowing flies to enter while keeping other animals safe. We owe it to bats like Sticky.

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Little River Eight

The Little River Zoo is now closed, and for that we are thankful.

At one time this zoo housed over 100 Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus), but only 8 bats remained when Bat World was contacted. Sadly, when the zoo closed, the other 92 bats entered the exotic pet trade. They were bartered like carnival toys, then crammed into tiny cages for transport, causing mothers to abandon their babies out of stress. From there they were shipped all over the US to be sold to collectors.

Quite often – on the Internet- you will see pictures of Egyptian fruit bats huddled together with their beautiful faces looking pensive (even to the casual observer).  Because of their beauty they suffer greatly as they are prized amongst the exotic pet trade. These bats are capable of living up to 25 years in captivity when provided with the quality of life they deserve. Bats entering the pet trade generally end up kept in small wire cages in someone’s living room, with no companions and nothing to entertain their active minds. In these conditions, they are likely to live less than a year. Why is it that people -human beings- feel justified in maintaining these spectacular creatures in such a stark manner when their natural habitat consists of lush forests and they seek refuge in amongst gardens, ancient tombs and temples and caves?

One of the Little River Eight enjoys a sweet potato kabob while his new roostmates look on.

The eight remaining bats were held in reserve by the individual in charge of re-homing the zoo animals because she wanted them for herself. As luck would have it, this individual later decided to relinquish all eight bats to us. It was then that we learned of the fate of the others.  Bat World Sanctuary was contacted by both the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and the American Sanctuary Association to see if we could  obtain  the  bats  from  their  current  owner.  Amanda Lollar, Bat World’s President, spoke with the bat’s owner at length over the course of several weeks.

The owner wavered back and forth about the number of bats she was willing to give up, claiming that she wanted to keep at least two for breeding stock. Finally, she decided to relinquish all eight bats. Later that afternoon the bats were issued a health certificate for transportation and arrangements were made to pick them up within the next 24 hours.

Kim, a Bat World volunteer who is bat trained, drove to Oklahoma to pick up the bats for their journey to safety. Although she was not allowed to take photographs, Kim described the enclosure in detail. Entering the zoo required driving through several locked gates. As she drove inside, she noticed a foul odor that grew stronger as she approached the animal cages. Finally there, she realized the stench was that of decay and death. The bats were housed in a small, wire cage that measured approximately 2’ x 6’ x 5’ high.  At first glance it appeared the wire of the cage was black in color, but as she moved closer, she realized the wires were actually ‘moving’, because every single wire strand was covered with roaches. The floor of the cage was also a seething mass of  insects. The cage contained no food, no water and no enrichment. The bats were crammed into a corner, trying to hide behind each other. Kim could see in their eyes that they were terrified; she wished she could somehow convey to them that their endless days of misery were finally over.

A Little River Eight newcomer is caught investigating a basket filled with soft vinyl toys, one of two “toy boxes” in the fruit bat’s flight enclosure at Bat World.

As the bats were gathered from their cage, one of them panicked and fell on the floor and it was instantly covered in roaches. Kim immediately reached down with gloved hands and began brushing the insects off of the frightened animal. The bats were loaded into a clean mesh carrier with a padded floor where they quickly moved towards the back of the cage to hide behind the synthetic foliage provided for them. The carrier was covered with a dark towel to give the bats a sense of security and to keep them warm.

Once at Bat World, we immediately examined the bats, checking for both injuries and parasites. Some of the bats were quite thin. One bat was found to be perhaps 20 years old. He likely had spent his entire life at that zoo.

When the bats entered our 55’ long flight cage for the first time, they seemed unsure of their new environment. Their faces portrayed a look of stunned excitement, as if they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Almost all of the bats attempted to fly, but their wings were so weak that they sailed to the softly-padded floor instead. Within days, however, all 8 bats were able to fly as nature intended, including the oldest male.

The Little River Eight will never go hungry again.  They now receive a variety of fresh fruit daily, sprinkled with vital nutrients. Their new expansive home is a simulated, natural environment covered with foliage on the ceiling, grapevines and ropes from which to hang and climb, camouflaged roosting areas with padded hammocks for bats who find it difficult to hang, toy boxes filled with dozens and dozens of toys to occupy their inquisitive minds, nightly fruit kabobs, and new friends they will keep for life.

Two of the Little River Eight are easily spotted among the other sanctuary bats because of the golden brown color of their fur, due to the improper diet they were forced to endure.

Amongst all the other Egyptian fruit bats in our care, the Little River Eight are very easy to spot because of the golden brown color oftheir fur. As attractive as this color may appear, unfortunately, it is due to the unbalanced diet they were forced to endure. With fresh, nutritious food and proper care, in time their fur will return to a more natural coloration of grayish brown.

The natural range of the Egyptian fruit bat is from the Middle East through most of Africa, and of course especially Egypt.  Very few people are aware that 70% of the fruit in the marketplace today is bat pollinated; not by birds, not by bees, by bats.  Egyptian fruit bats born to a colony remain with that colony for life.  The Little River 8 did not have that opportunity but they do have a new family who readily welcomed them to a new life where they will always be protected.

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Mr.Kitty

A tale of wonderful irony, of how animals who normally share a predator/prey relationship, ended up saving each other.

The story starts with feral cats. As with many small towns, Mineral Wells, TX, the location of Bat World Sanctuary headquarters, has its fair share of stray cats. Several years ago two cats began hanging around the trash bin outside the back of the Bat World facility. Both cats were very thin and both were pregnant. Taking pity, we started feeding the cats, created a shelter, and a relationship began. One of the cats (later named Dumb Bell) had 3 kittens and promptly abandoned them. We watched in amazement as the other cat (dubbed Miss Kitty for the lack of anything more original) moved the abandoned kittens to the spot she had chosen for her 3 newborns, and proceeded to nurse and care for all 6 of them. Within two years, however, the situation had grown well out of hand when 14 cats and kittens of various sizes had taken over the back parking lot.

Upon looking for a humane solution over the internet, we came across the Trap, Neuter, Return plan (TNR), a rapidly growing program promoted in the US by Alley Cat Allies. The TNR program is the most humane and effective way to reduce feral cat populations. It is designed for homeless cats living outdoors in cities, towns and rural areas.

Kittens and tame adult cats are caught and adopted into homes if they are available. Feral adult cats are humanely trapped, then spayed/neutered and vaccinated. After recovery they are returned to their familiar habitat where they remain under the lifelong care of volunteers. Some people feel that the TNR program is destructive to wildlife. However, the destruction to wildlife is greatly lessened when wild cat populations are controlled and care is provided. One wild, unspayed cat is capable of exponentially producing a whopping 59,049 offspring in just 5 years, and cats that are regularly fed by caretakers hunt less wildlife as a source of food. Lethal methods to control wild cat populations do not work as they don’t get to the root of the problem. New cats take over the territory of the previous cats, and they will continue to breed.

We were able to find homes for a few kittens. Others were captured and taken to a no-kill shelter in a larger city. The two original cats remained. Miss Kitty was the first stray cat to enter our local TNR program. After her return from the vet she tamed a bit and allowed us to slip a collar and ID tag around her neck. Although still wild for the most part, she began hanging around a few hours each evening, allowing us to pet her at times. Not long after she began bringing us presents.

Miss Kitty
Miss Kitty, sitting on the perch we built for her in the back of Bat World’s facility.

As any cat owner will tell you, cats have long been known to bring their owners little gifts of live bugs, mice and the like. Miss Kitty, however, brings bats. Not bats she has hunted and caught, but grounded bats that are in need of rescue. To date she has brought three grounded bats to Bat World. One bat was emaciated and dehydrated, with no injuries from being carried in her mouth. Another bat had a wing tear and was unable to fly (again, no injuries from being carried in her mouth) and a third had an open fracture, the exposed bone long-dry, indicating the break was at least a few days old.

The first two bats arrived during the fall of 2005. Each bat was deposited on the sidewalk while Miss Kitty sat close by, waiting for us to emerge from the back door, seemingly holding her stance to make certain it stayed in place until helping hands retrieved it.

These two bats only needed a short stay in rehab and were eventually returned to the wild (with, we imagine, harrowing tales to tell their roostmates when they returned!). Amanda Lollar, President of Bat World, had the opportunity to witness the third bat being brought to us in May of 2006. She was outside at dusk and noticed Miss Kitty scurrying across the parking lot toward the back of Bat World, carrying something gently in her mouth. Amanda cringed at the thought while hoping for the best. Miss Kitty gently laid the injured form at Amanda’s feet, then looked up into her face and proudly meowed while arching her back to be petted. Amanda bent to scoop the bat up with one hand while petting Miss Kitty with the other.

Mr. Kitty peeking out of a roosting rock, checking on his neighbors.

The dried bone in the little bat’s wing could not be repaired well enough to allow flight, so he is not releasable. However, he healed very quickly and has adapted well to captivity. To honor his rescuer he has been named Mr. Kitty. Mr. Kitty is now a permanent member of the indoor cave at Bat World Sanctuary. Oddly enough, like his rescuer, Mr. Kitty himself has a ‘take charge’ attitude and spends his time in multiple roosting rocks, seemingly checking on the activities of the other bats. Mr. Kitty learned to self-feed on mealworms and has grown quite plump. He does not, thankfully, bring us presents.

For information on starting a TNR program in your area visit alleycat.org.

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Cornelius

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.

Baby Cornelius, a Jamaican fruit bat orphan
Cornelius nursing formula from a foam tip.

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.

Cornelius' sweet face
Cornelius’ sweet face.

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.

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