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The Michigan 90

The past three weeks have perhaps been among the most trying we have ever encountered.

It started with the rescue of 90 fruit bats from the Organization for Bat Conservation (OBC) after it suddenly closed due to allegations of sexual harassment against the former Director, who allegedly left the organization “profoundly insolvent”.  For two decades we had watched the sad conditions of the bats being “used” in countless programs across the U.S., so we jumped at the chance to offer these bats lifetime sanctuary.

Many of the bats were on loan from zoos and other institutions so those bats had to be returned to those facilities. The bats that remained, however, included 90 bats, some of which were old and infirmed and with other various issues that made them unappealing to zoos and like-minded facilities, where appearance matters. The bats we rescued included 50 short-tailed fruit bats, 10 Egyptian fruit bats, 12 African fruit bats, 15 Jamaican fruit bats, 2 Indian flying foxes and 1 Rodrigues fruit bat.

Taking on 90 additional mouths to feed is a daunting task but thanks to you—our wonderful supporters who helped us build a new, larger sanctuary—we have the room to accommodate these poor, unwanted souls. When the bats arrived we were both joyous and saddened at the same time. We were joyous to give these bats a new lease on life with all the enrichment they deserve, but sad to see how emotionally and physically neglected some of them appeared to be, and that many of the smaller bats were thin and balding.  Three of the elderly bats had nails that were so long they had to be physically cut out of the mesh crate in which they arrived.

In the midst of all of the happiness at having the bats safely with us,  we lost one of our own, David Naranjo, who was tragically killed in a car accident. David was our “shining star” and so looked forward to giving the 90 new arrivals the life they should have always had. The loss of David hit us all very hard and in the most profound way imaginable. David was born to be a part of Bat World and in that sense irreplaceable. We have a wonderfully dedicated Bat World family consisting of staff and volunteers who have pitched in to help until we can eventually get someone else trained.

David, with Peekaboo.

The “Michigan 90” are adjusting to their new lives. Some individuals are being rehabilitated, including “Coco” a critically endangered Rodrigues fruit bat who was born in 1997 and loaned to the former director of OBC, along with another of her same species. In 2012, it was determined that Coco was going blind so she and her roost mate were moved to a small cage. Her roost mate died at some point but Coco remained confined to the small cage alone because, under the instructions of the former OBC director (and with no reflection on the OBC staff or the Board), it was believed that Coco would “freak out” if she was with other bats. On the alleged instruction of the former director, her claws were purposely allowed to grow so they curled 270 degrees (3/4 of a circle) making it so she could barely move around.  Because of the severe, curled length of her toenails, Coco could not unlatch her toes from the cage ceiling to turn right-side up to relieve herself, so she unwillingly soiled herself (behavior we are working to correct).

Along with other allegations of abuse and neglect, we later learned from a former staff member that Coco was allegedly kept in a broom closet for two years before finally being transferred to a different cage.  The former staff member reported that she would leave the door of the closet open while she was there so Coco could receive fresh air:

Coco, at Bat World Sanctuary, exploring her new surroundings and making dozens of new friends.

Bats are exceptionally clean by nature but in order to maintain themselves they must be able to ambulate. We trimmed all of the bat’s toenails that were overgrown and are in the process of rehabilitating their behavior as well as their feet and nails. Three bats (including Coco) were so accustomed to not being able to move about once they were placed in a certain location, they just hung in the exact same spot for hours on end. We are now helping them to understand that they are able to move freely on their own within our expansive enclosure.  We do this by gently helping them move their feet and guiding them across the enclosure ceiling while supporting their backs with one hand (as seen in our Live Bat Cams video footage, below).

We were promised that none of the bats were pregnant, however, several of the smaller short-tailed fruit bats were indeed pregnant on arrival. These tiny future mothers were placed into an enriched flight area, segregated from the rest of the colony, to await the birth of their babies.  Two of the females gave birth to girls within days of arriving so they were allowed to rejoin their colony in the large flight area with their offspring.

Left, one of the short-tailed fruit bats from OBC’s “Save the Shorties” fundraising campaigns. Right, one of the 50 “shorties” we rescued from OBC with her newborn baby girl.

The other mothers who gave birth to boys will stay with their youngsters until the boys are old enough to neuter in approximately 3 months. They will then be allowed to rejoin their colony.  One mother abandoned her baby boy, likely due to the stress of the transfer, so we are hand-raising her baby until he is old enough to be neutered and rejoin his mom and the rest of the colony.

Most of the Michigan 90 have a lifespan of 25 years or more. In order to return to normalcy, some of these bats have months of rehabilitation ahead. Your donations help us to accomplish all that we do for these bats and more, but by taking in 90 extra bats we have essentially reached critical mass. We have the room and the staff-power to care for them, however, we need to ensure that we have the funds available for the lifetime care of these neglected and abused bats so they never have to suffer again. We can only do this with your support.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

We are trying to raise $250,000, a lofty goal and one that we expect will take some time, but also one that will ensure that these innocent bats will never suffer again. With Bat World Sanctuary, they will receive ample food, veterinary aid, and loving care from a staff dedicated to ensuring their every creature comfort.

You helped build the safe sanctuary they now call home; please help us give the once abused and neglected bats lifetime care.

An elderly African fruit bat, who had his lip torn off during a fight with another male, finds peace and freedom at Bat World Sanctuary. He is one of 12 African fruit bats rescued from OBC.

On behalf of the 90 beautiful souls who will now have lifetime peace and happiness, thank you for your support.

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Benger the Avenger

At first he did not look like a vision of Beauty but that was because he had been through so much.

Benger after he was hydrated and feeling better

Benger was found in July of 2017 as an orphan. He was almost two miles from the nearest nursery colony. He was about four weeks old and too large to have been carried by another bat in flight, so we have no idea how he got to the porch of the lady who called us. In order to get where he was found he traveled through feral cats, raccoons and skunks, fire ants, traffic and burning hot pavement. He finally ended up on a porch where he was spotted, and we were called right away.

For the first few days we honestly didn’t think Benger would survive. He was critically dehydrated, so much so that it took 5mls of fluids –more than the amount of blood contained in his tiny body- to get him up to speed.

He was also skin and bones and vomited at almost every meal, losing all the formula and precious calories his body so desperately needed. Then burns started appearing on his toes and tail membrane, likely from the scalding hot pavement he traveled across. He lost his tail to burns and eventually lost on of his thumbs and a few of his toes.

It took Benger two months to completely heal. Throughout it all, he was such a hero. Despite the pain he endured, he never lost the will to survive. He isn’t releasable because of his injuries so we will take care of him the rest of his life (15 to 20 years).

His name is a combination of Roger (don’t ask) and Benjamin Button, because he looked like a shriveled old man when he arrived. We tacked on “Avenger” because to us he is nothing short of a tiny superhero.

To celebrate his survival, Bat World volunteer Moriah Champagne made Benger a tiny cape. His cape hangs on display beside the staff lockers at Bat World Sanctuary.

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Gimlet

Late one evening in March of 2011, we received an email concerning a bat found in an open garage. It was right after a heavy windstorm involving gale force winds that a man discovered the bat among debris blown in to his garage. Using a glove, he was able to get the bat into a glass jar. He then found Bat World online and sent us an email, along with the photo below, asking for our help.

Gimlet in small jar
Gimlet, barely able to fit inside the jar that encased him. Click to enlarge.

We determined the bat was a big free-tail (Nyctinomops macrotis), based on the size of the bat compared to the jar. Most disconcerting, however, was the unnatural position of the frightened bat, indicating he was too large to fit inside the jar. While his rescuer had the best of intentions in helping the bat, it is important to note that a jar is a highly inappropriate container for a bat, even temporarily. Glass allows too much light for the comfort of these animals who prefer dark seclusion, and the slick surface offers nothing for the bat to grip in order to comfortably hang upside-down. Additionally, bats use echolocation to orient themselves to their surroundings and these vocalizations only bounce around inside a jar, which can alarm a bat even further.

We gave the caller instructions on how to move the bat safely from the jar and into a secure box that included a padded floor, places to hang and hide, and a shallow dish of water. A meeting place was decided for the following day in order to transfer “Gimlet” to Bat World Sanctuary. Upon arrival at Bat World, Gimlet was thoroughly examined and although he was thin and dehydrated, he was in fairly good condition.

Big free-tailed bats are only known to colonize a few select places in Texas, so we determined that the extreme high winds we had been experiencing likely blew Gimlet off course. Little is known about his species other than they like to roost within crevices and cracks in high canyon walls. Unfortunately there are no known big free-tail bat roosts in north-central Texas (where Bat World is located) so we could not release him right away.

In July of 2013, with the help of a bat biologist and friend, Gimlet was finally reunited with his kind in Big Bend National Park in south Texas, where these bats thrive. He was released at nightfall and joined other big free-tailed bats already out foraging in the protected park.

His favorite food in captivity was giant meal worms, as evidenced in the video below. We were both honored and happy to care for Gimlet until he could once again return his rightful place in the wild, soaring high above the canyons with his kind.

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Dusty

Thank you to the lovely ladies who drove this little dusty bat to us. She had been stuck in a warehouse for three days, was extremely emaciated and dehydrated, and would not have lasted another day. Within 15 minutes of receiving electrolytes and hydrolyzed protein she began to perk up, and was able to be fed an hour later. She is doing great and will be released in a couple of days! Click photo to enlarge.

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The Sunday 16

We rescue starving orphaned free-tailed bats from our wild sanctuary every summer. Normally we find and save one to two per day, but one Sunday in July of 2012, we rescued 16. The videos below tell the story of The Sunday Sixteen.

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Tinkerbelle

In May of 2012, an orphaned Jamaican fruit bat was brought to us attached to her dead mother, who was purchased as a pet a couple of months ago. The person who bought her didn’t know she was pregnant. The mom likely couldn’t pass the placenta, which can be fatal. The baby is fine now, thanks to the gal who owned them and realized she could not care for a newborn fruit bat.After joining our facebook page she realized that it was wrong to keep bats as pets, and she wants us to share that in this post, and we commend her for that.

We are calling the baby Tinkerbell, after her mom. At first Tinkerbell was very cold, dehydrated and reluctant to eat, but was doing much better within a couple of days. Within three months she was full grown and doing well, and now eats fruit and lives in a large flight enclosure with the at residents at Bat World Sanctuary. Click photos to enlarge.

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Boo-2

Boo2 was born here at Bat World Sanctuary after his mother was rescued from a horrible situation at the now closed Little River Zoo. She was one of the eight remaining bats who were rescued, and came to us while pregnant.

Like Peekaboo, a similar zoo rescue, Boo2 had loads of personality. We are so grateful to have rescued him from the dire conditions to which he could have been born. He has become best buddies with Peekaboo, as evidenced by the photo below.

Boo2 (looking at the camera) with Peekaboo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boo2 showing off his sweet smile.
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Sarah

This would have been an account of yet one more bat whose fate was sealed, due to an unfortunate encounter with “Tanglefoot Bird Repellant,” had it not been for kind-hearted Jennifer Michaelis, who was leaving a store in Weatherford, Texas, in August and noticed two children pouring water over something small and alive on the ground. She took the time to inspect their activities and saw the tormented creature was a struggling bat covered in a thick, sticky substance that resembled molasses. The bat was completely incapacitated. She cautioned the children to stop what they were doing and immediately went inside a “Big Lots” store to retrieve a box in which to put the bat. It was then she found out that the manager of Big Lots had placed bird repellant along the top edge of the building to keep the pigeons from roosting on the building.

Glue traps and sticky repellants of any kind do great harm to wildlife. Tanglefoot in particular is an insidious product which causes great suffering, incapacitating wildlife, and necessitates immediate first aid intervention. Animals get the Tanglefoot onto their beaks and in their mouths, causing them to suffocate, dehydrate, or slowly starve to death. The company who makes the product claims: “Tanglefoot Bird Repellent is a nondrying, non-toxic compound or paste that adheres to all types of surfaces while remaining sticky.”

The bat that Jennifer Michaelis rushed to place in our care had glue over her eyes, her limbs; every inch of her delicate body was drenched in the gooey substance and to make it worse, since she had contact with the ground, dirt and debris became part of the goop that was covering her.

Repeated applications of vegetable oil were applied to remove the adhesive, followed by bathing with Dawn liquid detergent. In all, over the course of two days, the bat was oiled and bathed eleven times. Additionally some of the goo remained on her neck and muzzle creases which required seven more baths to those areas.

We asked Jennifer if she wished to name the bat she saved, and she chose to name her Sarah, after her daughter, who is a bat enthusiast. Thank you, Jennifer, for saving Sarah and driving 45 minutes each way to bring her to us for medical treatment.

Note: You can help prevent bats and birds from untimely deaths from glue traps and adhesive bird repellants. Please write to Big Lots and encourage them to stop using these products, and please encourage them not to sell any type of glue traps for mammals.

Steve Fishman, President
Big Lots Corporate Headquarters
300 Phillipi Road
Columbus, OH 43228Please also write to the makers of Tanglefoot and let them know their product is cruel and causes great suffering and death to wildlife:The Tanglefoot Company
314 Straight Avenue, S.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504-6485
Fax: (616) 459-4140
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Injured Baby

In the summer of 2011, a one-week old free-tailed pup was admitted with what appeared to be a severe bite wound to the forearm. Unfortunately, adult males sometimes bite baby bats who wander into their territory, and that appeared to be the case here. The wound was severely infected and would have cause a painful death to the pup in the wild. We treated the pup with antibiotics, pain medication and applied sterile Manuka honey to the wing twice daily. Within 10 days the wing was vastly improved. The pup continued to do well over the next 10 weeks. When full grown, and after receiving flight training, the pup was released back into the original colony where it was rescued.

Photos below were taken while the pup was nursing its milk formula from foam eye-shadow applicators which were removed from he wand. Click the photo to enlarge.

Click to enlarge
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Mr. Impley

Mr. Impley is a Jamaican fruit bat who was retired to us in 1994 along with 14 of his roostmates. The bats were involved in DNA research, and samples of their ears and toes were removed using clippers. Needless to say, most of these bats were very frightened of people when they arrived. One bat, however, displayed a rather impish personality early on, so was affectionately dubbed “Mr. Imply” within a few days of his arrival.

 

A few of the bats who were retired to Bat World after being used in research. Click to enlarge.

Mr. Imply went into research as an adult so his exact age is unknown. In his younger years, he used to fly to caregivers to receive a special treat of melon, but as he has aged so did his desire to fly, so his twice-daily treats are now hand-delivered by his human caretakers while he hangs in a basket-roost that he shares with two elderly female bats of his same species. To date he is one of the oldest Jamaican fruit bats in captivity at 18 years and counting.

 

 

Mr. Impley holding a piece of his favorite treat, honey due melon. Photo taken when Imply was approximately 17 years old.  Click to enlarge.

 

 

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