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.
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.
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.
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.
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.