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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Binky is an African straw-colored fruit bat (Eidolon helvum) born with a birth defect to his lower jaw.
When he was born, his lower jaw extended to the side and did not allow his mouth to close properly. Consequently, he had a difficult time eating. Binky was also a runt and had a hard time holding his own in the bat colony where he lived before coming to Bat World Sanctuary. The facility where he was born could not care for him and was looking for a home that could provide him with the love and attention he needed. As soon as we learned about Binky we immediately offered to take him.
To accommodate his birth defect, the fruit was cut smaller than for that of the average flying fox. Binky’s diet consists of grapes, pears, mangos, bananas, kiwis, figs, apples and other fruits.
When Binky arrived he was very, very shy. He peeked out from behind large ferns that hang from the cage ceiling, barely venturing out to explore the flight area. Despite his shyness, Binky almost immediately bonded with one of our larger, slightly overweight flying-foxes named Brutus. The pair became inseparable, even lazily sharing a hammock by day.
Binky eventually overcame his shyness and is happy, very social and energetic. His jaw straightened as he grew and his defect is now only occasionally noticeable. With his challenges now behind him, we hope to give Binky a very long and happy life.
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.
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.
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.