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The Houston Five

By Amanda Lollar, Founder & President

On February 3rd, 2016, around 10pm, I was just wrapping up the day when I saw a plea for help on our Facebook page from Lisa G, about an issue in Houston Texas that involved an elderly woman beating helpless free-tailed bats to death with her cane. (Caution, disturbing video on this link.)

dead bats on porchThe video sickened me to the core, and I was further frustrated by the fact that Houston is over 300 miles away from Bat World Sanctuary. The video also 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 to death. Keep in mind that these animals 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 was killed had the potential of eating 27,375,000 harmful insects in its lifetime.

911Wildlife LogoBecause it was so late, my only recourse was to alert rescuers in the area as well as Marcelino Benito, the reporter at KHOU 11 news who covered the story and asked to be contacted if anyone could help. I left messages with Mr. Benito through email and his Facebook page that night as well as the following morning. I also put in calls first thing the following morning to our local game warden, KHOU 11 news, and our good friends at 911Wildlife, a humane 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, I 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. He even stood by while still-alive bats were thrown into a trash bag. 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.

If there is a brighter note to this story it is that this colony of bats will no longer be in harms way since they have been humanely excluded. Dozens of people came together in a show of concern for these bats and the elderly woman as well. Thank you to all of you who emailed and called us out of concern for these bats, and thank you, especially Bonnie and crew at 911Wildlife – the bats would not have had a chance without your intervention. Thank you, Masha P., who received 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, where Kate, our Director of Special Projects stayed up most of the night treating and stabilizing the bats.

The Houston Five

As of this morning, the Houston Five -Timmy, Dash, Ella, Jane Ann, and Bee- are slowly recovering. Dash is in the best shape; she has some facial abrasions and internal bruising, but no fractures. Ella and Jane Ann are not in quite as good shape; they both had to have a full amputation and also have internal bruising. Timmy and Bee are in the worst shape; Timmy had a wing amputation and also a broken leg while Bee had a full amputation and severe internal injuries. All five bats are resting comfortably now, with pain medication, antibiotics, and vitamin supplements and all have started eating decent amounts of food (an increase in appetite is always a good sign!). They will remain in a ‘Hospital Hut’ for a few more days while their injuries stabilize. All of the bats are also receiving an iron supplement as they are anemic due to internal injuries. We are cautiously optimistic that they will all pull through, however, we will not be confident for at least another week.

Note: While amputations of a wing may seem extreme, bats, like dogs, can live rich, full lives without the use of a limb. The highly social and terrestrial nature of free-tailed bats in particular allows them to enjoy life outside of flight.

A Belated New Year Thank You

By Amanda Lollar

As you may recall from our 2015 year-end annual report, we only needed $13,000 to pay off the large construction loan we secured in 2013 in order to build our new facility. Well, we have fantastic news! Your support, along with a tremendous donation of $50,000 and the sale of our former property, enabled us to pay the entire loan in December and Bat World is now 100% debt free! Bat World Sanctuary truly is a “Forever Place for Bats in Need”, and thousands of bats like little Victoria (pictured below) will be saved, for decades to come, because of you. What a magical way to begin the New Year.

Victoria-1-13-16Little Victoria is our first rescue of 2016. She was one of several evening bats using the hollow of a dead tree as a roost. Unfortunately the tree was about to fall into the street so the homeowners had to remove it. In cutting a section they discovered a small colony of evening bats roosting in a knothole. The startled bats flew off, but as the homeowners moved that section of the tree out of the way they discovered little Victoria hiding in another crevice, bleeding where the saw blade had nicked her tiny body. Thankfully, the concerned homeowners immediately called us for help. Victoria has a lacerated ear, a broken wrist, finger fractures on one wing, and a forearm fracture on the other wing. This photo was taken after she arrived at our rescue center, Bat World MidCities on Jan 13th (she had received pain medication and antibiotics before this picture was taken). Victoria is doing much better today but unfortunately she is not releasable so she’ll live out her life at Bat World with others of her kind.

Your support enabled Victoria to be rescued and supported for the remainder of her life with every conceivable bat creature comfort, in a simulated natural environment with others of her own kind. Thank you to every one of you; no matter the size of the donation, it took all of you, from those who donated $5 to the anonymous donor who gave the astounding $50,000 donation. Every penny that came in made Bat World Sanctuary a forever place for bats in need so innocent beings like Victoria have a sanctuary to live out their lives with all the freedom their healed injuries allow. On behalf of Victoria and all the bats yet to be saved in the years ahead, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. ♥

Bat World Sanctuary on Social Media

Everyone can agree how important social media is to a charity in spreading the word about a mission or goal, showcasing their work and why they should be supported, and of course, raising much-needed funds.

This is one of the reasons we have loved Facebook for so many years. We took our fan base from 1,500 to our current number of almost 145,000 in just a few years. These fans are critical to our organization. Our educational and our rescue posts are shared, reaching hundreds of thousands of people around the world, opening more eyes to both the importance and the plight of bats. Our pleas for help are answered by our many loyal (and treasured) supporters. And fundraisers are shared, helping us immensely in our quest to stay afloat and save as many animals as we can in the process. But sadly, all that is changing.

fb post 1600 reachedOver the last few months, less and less of our Facebook fans are seeing our posts. One some days we are back to only 1,500 fans seeing our feed – the same number we started with several years ago. There are several changes Facebook made that has caused this. One is not interacting with our page. If you don’t “like” a post we have made or comment frequently, you will stop receiving our posts. But lately even active fans have stopped seeing our daily posts for no reason at all. That’s because of  another change made by Facebook: if you want to receive our feed you have to both like our page and also “opt in” to receive our daily posts or you never see one post from us. And yet another change that has occurred is something called “boosting”. If a page like ours wants all of our fans to see a certain post we have made, we have to “boost” that post by paying (advertising) for people who already like our page to see what we have posted. It’s discouraging to say the least.

This is one of the reasons we were excited to learn about a new social media platform called tsu (pronounced “sue”). Tsu is exciting in that your fans are yours to keep until THEY decide otherwise. And even better, tsu shares it’s advertising revenue with all users. Ad revenue is generated by ads appearing on the side of social media pages. The advertising companies pay sites like Facebook and tsu to have their ads appear in feeds. Facebook of course has made millions on revenue from these ads, but tsu actually shares the revenue with users. And the more active a tsu page is and the bigger the fan base, the more a money a tsu user can make. We aren’t talking millions or even thousands, but we are talking hundreds, which isn’t anything to scoff at. Bat World Sanctuary created a tsu page several months ago and we have earned almost $300 with a little over 3,500 fans, and we aren’t near as active (yet) on tsu as we are on Facebook.

We have shared our tsu page a dozen times or more on Facebook in hopes of some of our older fans seeing our page and hoping over to tsu to join us. However, last month I noticed that the posts I made inviting others to join us are VERY limited, with only a few hundred people seeing them. And just today, when I attempted to share a message and an invitation for others to join us on tsu, the post was completely blocked by Facebook.

tsu blocked-croped

Of course, it’s a free country and Facebook has the perfect right to not allow posts that involve a competitor, but on the other hand, Facebook is almost forcing people to jump ship.

PEEKS FOR ENDBut it gets worse. I just discovered that several photos I shared on Facebook with “Peekaboo the Smiling Bat” inviting others (in orange text) to join us on tsu were deleted, and the one photo that remains was edited and the content about tsu was removed. The portion of text that was removed included a link to join tsu and read something to the effect of “Peekaboo would like you to join us on tsu, a new social media page…” (Click here to view the edited post.)

Again, it’s a free country and Facebook is perfectly within its rights to run its business however it sees it, but editing our posts to essentially prevent free speech is just plain disturbing. For more proof of Facebook’s banning of tsu posts read this article: “Is Facebook afraid of social network rival tsu?

Bottom line, we aren’t giving up on Facebook yet, but we also plan to move full steam ahead with tsu. If you want to join us please click here, and then click “Join” in the upper right hand corner.

More on Facebook’s policy on limiting posts

A Bittersweet Rescue

By Amanda Lollar, Founder & President, Bat World Sanctuary

In the early nineties, when I was still new at rehabbing bats, the common belief was that orphaned insectivorous bats could not be released back to the wild because they wouldn’t know how to catch food (according to research, their mothers taught them). After raising several orphans to young adulthood and watching them navigate a flight cage with ease I began to question the notion that they could not be released. After all, it was instinct for these orphans to fly and it was instinct for them to echolocate, so why wouldn’t they use those two skills to find food?

The orphans were rescued from our wild sanctuary of 100,000+ free-tailed bats. I decided to release a few hand-raised flighted orphans the following summer and then track their survival. I devised a way to permanently mark them that would not be detrimental to their health (such as banding, which is highly fatal). I finally decided on a small animal tattoo gun, and I chose the the right earlobe to mark the bat. The ear was chosen because it was easily visible when the bats hang upside down from the rafters. A microbat’s ears are very small so a number system could not be used. Instead I used simple dots. Throughout the nineties the only tattoo paste I found available was black. Then, in the early 2000’s I found green ink and switched to using that. Every orphan released in 2001 had one green dot, those released in 2002 had 2 green dots, and everything from 2003 forward had 3 green dots (because there simply wasn’t enough room on their tiny ears for more dots).

Every summer, after releasing orphans, I searched on a daily basis for a tattooed ear among the tens of thousands of faces and ears in the wild sanctuary. Finally, in 2008, a couple of weeks after releasing orphans, I found one hanging from the rafters. His belly was stuffed full, but with what? Could he have found a lactating female and been lucky enough to adopted by a new mom even though he was basically a teenager? As luck would have it he pooped in my hand when I lifted him off the rafter. This was very exciting because if his poop contained insect parts then it was proof that they could indeed find food on their own. I cradled the precious “sample” in my gloved hang like a teensy nugget of gold, took it back to our facility and examined it under a microscope. Low and behold, there were dozens of insect pieces, including shiny shell fragments from beetles. Finally, proof that insect-eating orphaned bats could be released and learn to forage for insects on their own.

But then more speculation arose: okay, so orphaned bats can be released and even survive, BUT, could they survive the annual migration to Mexico and back, and even raise young of their own? That question was answered when, finally, in 2010, I spotted a beautiful, healthy, lactating female on the rafters of our wild sanctuary with three green dots on her ear. Finding her among 100,000 other bats on the rafters was akin to finding a message in a bottle, something near impossible. She appeared to be around 5 years of age and she was proof that orphaned bats can be released, survive, migrate and even raise young of their own.

Over the past 20 years we’ve received thousands of calls from the public regarding grounded and injured bats. Over all these years I have continued to check the right ear of every single bat that came in, but never saw tattoo. On Sat night, August 15, 2015, around 10:30pm we received a call about a grounded bat in the city park. The bat was hoping on the ground and couldn’t get any lift. The caller had placed the bat into a box and called us right away. After we were back at the facility I had a chance to thoroughly examine the bat. She appeared old and seemed very tired, she had mites covering her wing membrane and her tail was injured. She has been grounded for a while because she was very thin. After hydrating her I did my usual check of the right ear and my jar dropped. There they were – two faded but magnificent green dots on her right ear. That meant she was saved as a starving orphan the summer of 2002, and she was now 13 years old. It took her a little while, but I could tell she slowly started to recognize her surroundings; the roosting pouches, the sounds of the other bats in rehab, and then finally the food, which she gratefully ate. She even nuzzled my finger when I stroked her tiny face after she ate.

The following morning I immediately went to check on her. Sadly, when I removed her from a roosting pouch I could tell she was dying. She passed away a few seconds later, in the same hands that saved her some 13 years ago. I am showing these photos after she died because she should be remembered for all she did during her lifetime. This beautiful, ragged little soul migrated over 30,000 miles on her way to and from Mexico every single year, she likely raised 6 to 8 youngsters of her own, and she ate an estimated 23,725,000 insect pests during her lifetime. And lastly, she is beyond a shadow of a doubt, 100% proof positive that orphaned insectivorous bats can indeed be released to live the rich, full lives they deserve.

tattooed bat 2015

Restless

By Mitch Gilly

We just released four male free-tailed bats who were overwintering with us at Bat World Sanctuary. They had been found trapped in buildings and grounded just as winter set in, so for their own good they spent the winter with us until the weather warmed enough to allow them a safe release.

As typical at this time of year, we’d noticed a pattern of excitement in these boys over the past few weeks, progressing from fidgeting during feeding time to a growing curiosity and restlessness about what lie beyond the clinic walls.

For male bats, the return migration for free-tailed bats begins as early as late January (depending on the weather). In their never-ending quest for love, male bats begin to trickle back into Texas, often the height of winter, to get in before everyone else and scout out ideal spots for bachelor pads. They set up house, settle in, and as I like to imagine, practice their love songs assiduously until the females arrive around March.

A male free-tailed bat hoping to attract females by rubbing secretions from his gular gland on an enclosure wall close to his roosting spot.

This seasonal rite is so hardwired into the bats that despite having been indoors for months, they nevertheless know that it’s time to “get out there”. Like clockwork, the boys begin their harmless squabbling and frantically rubbing their chests and faces on the entries to their selected roosting spots in the hopes that the ladies will like their aftershave. It’s all natural, of course. Very fancy stuff.  Between this and their constant impeccable grooming, I’ve come to understand that in their way, the bats dress far, far better than I do.

It’s a humbling thing to realize.

This incredible innate precision isn’t limited to time keeping, however. They’ve been shown to be able to navigate over large distances even when the moon isn’t visible, using only a glimpse of the position of the sun at sunset. Here in Texas, they are often even spotted on Doppler radar in massive swarms, uncannily spherical or crescent shaped in form. These are most often the bats of Bracken cave, which number at a staggering 20 million bats and is thought to be the largest conclave of mammals on Earth. Much of this likely isn’t new information to those who read this blog and follow our efforts to educate on online; it wasn’t anything we staff didn’t already know either. There is, however, a massive difference between having an abstract understanding of the capacities of bats’ sensoriums versus seeing it in action, and in situations where its efficacy seems almost preternatural.

It’s not, of course. It’s as natural as natural gets.  Bats merely make us rethink what natural or normal is.  They are incredibly long-lived for small mammals, and their roles in their respective ecosystems are far more foundational than is common for Class Mammalia. They are the only creatures other than birds and insects that are capable of true flight, and their dispositions are completely at odds with their unjustly sinister reputation.

They embody a conundrum that many of the brightest minds humanity has produced have pondered since the mind was first able to ponder. Perhaps we can sense this about them; perhaps this is why they have so persistently captured our collective imagination and become icons and archetypes both innate to and beyond what they really are.

One thing is for sure: the benefits of bats run the entire gamut, from maintaining the foundation of their ecosystems to the inspiring of philosophical contemplation. All animals should be valued, but it has to be said that few are so richly beneficial to all aspects of our existence in this world.

Their Own Best Advocate

By Mitch Gilley

Judging from the enthusiastic response on our Facebook page and the activity in our chat room, most of you will already be aware of the four bat cams streaming live 24/7 in the flight enclosures.

This was a big step for us.  It’s been one of Bat World’s missions to show that bats are undeserving of the sinister reputation that has plagued them for centuries and there’s no better way to dispel the myths than to show them and how they react naturally and interact with their caregivers.  Many, many people have seen movies depicting bats as vicious, evil beings so it gives us immense pleasure to show them in a new light, their natural light, illuminated by authenticity rather than unimaginative fiction.

There’s never been a good way to let people actually see how inquisitive and playful they are. Their antics are the subject of a lot of discussion around the office here at Bat World, and we are the ones who are fortunate enough to see it everyday. Now any supporter can watch a video stream in the evenings and see fruit and insect bats live and play in a surrounding that is as close to their native environment as is possible; short of setting up cameras in a rain forest that is.

The Dropcam software even allows you to go back through the previous night’s footage the next morning and identify moments of high activity so that particularly interesting events can be quickly isolated.  It also enables us to convert these moments into educational, heartwarming and even comical videos.

That is the best thing about these cameras: capturing those little moments and learning small details that would otherwise go undocumented, even with nocturnal observation in the wild because all predation and the struggle to survive at the hands of man has been removed. They are safe and able to play as nature intended before the cruelty of humans entered their world.  The cameras are small, surrounded by foliage and very unobtrusive, whereas a human observer would cause many of the bats to simply pay attention to them rather than be themselves, no matter how familiar that individual might be to the bats.

Being inquisitive and playful much of the first night’s footage was of curious bat snouts probing the camera, or the lens being covered by wings as they outright landed on it for a thorough examination. Still, in the end, the cameras have become just another fixture in their playground and they are free to be themselves. It was such a heartfelt moment to know that we could bring our supporters the joy the bats experience from the new toys that are frequently sent by donors.

To our knowledge, this sort of free interaction among a sizable colony of bats can’t be seen anywhere else. In the streams you can watch both fruit and insect bats play, groom, solve enrichment puzzles, and mingle freely not only with those different from themselves, but those of entirely different species. We invite those who are interested in them to indulge, those who are put off by their undeserved reputation to disabuse themselves of erroneous preconception, and everyone to burn through far too much free time than intended watching this unprecedented window into their lives.

It all suggests that perhaps nobody is better at advocating for bats than the bats themselves.

 

Giving Them the Moon

By Mitch Gilley

Despite my prediction that the impish Carollias (think Lil Drac) would be first, it was the ordinarily skittish Egyptians – with Peek-a-boo leading the charge – that flew the first quick and wary circles around the newly completed semi-outdoor flight enclosure as soon as the sun had set. Once around, then back home as fast as their wings could carry them.

As the others watched the first bats return unharmed, more joined them for the next foray, then more still, then even more. With each of their roundabout reconnaissance, they collectively gathered more information, sharing it with each squeak and squawk and call. Before long, they sought out the foliage shrouded hiding places of the enclosure and tentatively hung from them to get a longer, deeper look at this huge, mysterious new place with its unfamiliar sounds of the night and freshness to its air.

It was bigger than their indoor enclosure but in most other respects it was very similar. Natural, locally harvested grapevine snaked across the ceiling to simulate the trees of their native habitats. Foliage and flowers hung in abundance, giving them plenty of places to congregate and feel secure. Toys dotted the ceiling as well, so that they’d never be bored. All of it was arranged to provide for clear pathways for flight, yet with density enough for everyone to have something to play with.

While they liked all this, and while the familiarity lent this new place a comfort that put them at ease, there was one crucial thing that they’d never had before, that many of them had never even been fortunate enough to witness before: moonlight; nature’s oldest gift to bats.

It’s one of the many tragedies of fruit bats trapped in the pet trade, in substandard zoos and in research; nearly all of them are born, live and die without ever getting to experience the very night with which they are so attuned. Even at the original Bat World the nature of the building made it impossible to expose them to a natural day/night cycle. We simulated it with the carefully designed indoor lighting, being brought down in levels until complete darkness overtook the facility each evening but it wasn’t and could never be the same because we could never give them the moon.

They had it now and despite the tumult of the recent move and having only just adapted to their new home, they rushed to this natural gift from Mother Nature. Watching their excitement, it was clear that we’d given them something they’d been yearning for all their lives.

By the second night they populated the enclosure as if it had always been there. They brought food outside to eat, even carried toys with them, congregated in their roosts and generally acted as playfully as ever.  There was a single moment for each of us as we witnessed the incredible joy of these miraculous creatures and the welling of tears was not to be restrained, it was too special of a moment; the kind of thing that you remember forever.

The truly great thing about the semi-outdoor enclosure, however, is that the climate here in North Central Texas is almost perfect for it. Temperatures can drop down to the mid-50s before it becomes uncomfortable or unsafe for them, but for 9-10 months out of the year it never gets that cold. They were even able to get a few nights “outside” in early December. This will be something they’ll be able to enjoy nearly all year long.

Short of being located in a tropical climate, it could not have worked out any better.

Settling in, Bat Style

By Mitch Gilley

Most of you are aware of our big move to our new facility last August. By far most of the work was with the new enclosures, which I am extremely proud to have helped built. Not only are they much larger, but very carefully designed and build with relentless perfectionism.

But given the picky disposition that most bats share, we could not help but wonder if they would approve of the all the work that we put into their new home. It was really gratifying to see them immediately recognize the similarities between their new enclosures and the old ones, the familiar scents of their old toys and roosts were meticulously woven into the new which gave them the confidence to explore its differences. Even Poppy wandered across the ceiling in the full light of day, (thanks to the large skylight),  to check out her new home despite ample secluded places to hide and wait for it to get dark.  She reminded me of the great explorers who conquered the new West and we took delight in watching her inspect every aspect of the new home she and her brethren would share.

The bats took a few days in hammering out their chosen roosting but by the end of the first week it almost seemed as though they’d always lived at the new place as it was theirs to command, enjoy and embrace and somehow instinctively they knew it. We, their caretakers, learned right alongside the bats and realized more ways to make life easier than ever for our elderly and arthritic bats, such as the day we discovered one of them munching on a chunk of sweet potato that had fallen off of one of the a kabobs that hangs from the flight enclosure ceiling. It had hit the floor and rolled under the roosting area and ended up against a wall. An elderly Jamaican fruit bat that likes to roost against the mesh that lines that wall (one of several rescued from research in 1996),  happened to noticed the sweet potato. He crawled down to the floor and began to happily munch away in secrecy and comfort, knowing the sweet potato was all his and that none of the younger bats would come down and steal it away from his aging grip. Now we make sure each night that ample pieces of sweet potato are placed in various spots on the clean floor and against the wall for the oldsters.

An elderly Jamaican fruit bat enjoys a messy treat of sweet potato in a secret hiding place all his own.

There are a million other things that the bats and we caretakers have learned from each other since the big move, so the extent of it all is far beyond one blog post. What’s most important, though, is the trust that the bats have shown in us in taking them to their new home. Even shy Isis, who hasn’t been with us long compared to most of our other residents, now comes out for treat time and waits expectantly for her piece of honeydew. She, along with the African fruit bats and many, many others, were among those that volunteers and staff didn’t see very often during the day, and while we hoped that they would accept their new home, we did not expect that they would seem to understand so well that we did this for them.

No matter how hard the work was, I know I speak for everyone when I say that we’d do it all over again just to witness the bats enjoying the semi-outdoor enclosure for the first time as they soared in the night air, zipping back and forth with the abandonment that only freedom brings.  That’s a story for the next blog, though.

Lastly, to all who gave us so much support in getting this huge undertaking done, whether it was by donations or by rolling up their sleeves to help –  thank you. We realize that we have thanked you many times already, but to us it will never be enough.

Moving in Baby Steps

By Mitch Gilley

Well, it’s beginning.

Many of you have tracked the progress of the new facility via our Facebook updates, but now the preliminary stages of moving in are underway. We’ll be operating at our same address of 20 years for the time being; with the bats requiring constant care it’s not simply a matter of packing everything up and moving it from here to there. So, for the next month both our current facility and the new facility will need to be operational so that the only interruption to the bats’ routines is a short car ride when the final day of moving arrives.

Artist Sarah Kennedy creating a large forest mural directly outside the flight enclosures for the bats.

To that end, we’ve been putting special effort into the new flight enclosures and the new clinic, as these areas always will be the heart of Bat World. The interiors of the enclosures are being designed and laid out, cabinets and shelves have been assembled (by myself, with several do-overs) and a forest mural is being hand-painted around the flight enclosures by the very talented Sarah Kennedy, an artist and photographer who has volunteered at Bat World for several years. Sarah flew all the way from New York to do this for us. Those of you who’ve ordered our book Baby See-through will be familiar with her artwork.  We’re extremely grateful for her time and effort in helping us create such a scenic environment for our residents.

Bat World volunteers spent the 4th of July readying the new clinic, where thousands of future bats will be treated and released back to the wild.

Even my brother got in on the action, helping Amanda and me to move clinic supplies and furniture yesterday.  In fact, we got so focused on loading up a desk, boxes of formula, supplements, medical supplies, reference books, as much as we could that we forgot to leave any space for him in the back to ride in the back of the vehicle. We’d have unloaded some stuff to make room for him, but he insisted on sandwiching himself between boxes and making the trip. It was a small selfless act, and we appreciated it. You know how it is when you’re moving: the smallest thing can solicit the most profound gratitude.  This applies doubly so in the midst of a sweltering Texas summer. Thanks, Mark.

Volunteers spent the 4th of July hanging cabinets and setting up incubators for orphaned and injured bats, because alongside all this transition, nature keeps on being nature, and right now in nature bats’ activity is at its peak. In other words, it’s baby season. We’ve taken in 11 free tail pups this week, and just today I went to pick up 3 mother bats that had gotten lost and trapped in a building.  They were quite dehydrated and sluggish, but with injections of electrolytes for hydration and small feedings throughout the day they bounced back quickly. Thankfully, they were able to be released that very night and as predicted, they flew straight back to their roost, likely to find their very hungry babies as quickly as possible.

We can’t save every single bat in need – nobody can – but thanks to the support of our incredibly loyal base of donors, many, many baby bats are saved from prolonged suffering and given a second chance at life. Your donations have helped us put formula into a newborn orphan’s belly, provided pain medications and antibiotics for injured bats, and most importantly, you have helped us built a new facility so that we can continue saving even badly wounded babies and adults, giving them a chance to fly free once again. And to think, we have only just begun!

Stay tuned, there is more good news to come!

Orphaned free-tailed pups nursing milk formula from tiny foam tips. Click here to watch a video.

The Fridge Incident

By Mitch Gilley

Bat World’s current refrigerator

It’s funny what you end up daydreaming about when you have to prepare a giant bin of fruit every day, the fruit bat’s nightly ration.  For us, a huge refrigerator is close to the top of the list.  We use a large variety of fruit, including but not limited to organic apples, bananas, sweet potatoes, pears, honeydew melon, blueberries, papaya, kiwi, etc.  All these things ripen, and thus spoil, at different rates at room temperature.  We refrigerate what we can, but we currently have nowhere near enough space for everything.

Once in the new facility, however, this will no longer be a problem.  One of our biggest supporters purchased the fridge of a fruit salad chef’s dreams, one of such size that we don’t even have the space to use it here in our current facility.  It’s being safely stored at the moment, but it wasn’t stored easily.

On the morning of the day it arrived, February 14th (Valentine’s Day), we’d gotten word a couple days before that the fridge had been purchased for us, which was really great news.  We then speculated on when the delivery might occur but assumed since it was coming by freight it would be at least 2 to 3 weeks.  The thing weighed a monstrous 450 pounds and was possibly too large to simply bring in through our shipping hall door, so we needed to take some measurements and find a place to store it until we moved. Thankfully, we had plenty of time.

A fruit bat chef’s dream

Then, only two days later, a semi truck pulled up in front of Bat World’s facility. It couldn’t be the refrigerator, we said.  The donor had just bought it.  No way it comes in that fast.  And besides, freight trucks sometimes get overloaded and can’t make it to all their stops in a given day; there was a fair chance that this shipment, which couldn’t have possibly been the fridge, wouldn’t even arrive today. The truck must be delivering groceries to the bistro across the street from us. So, reassured, we went about our business.

Then we saw the driver headed to our door, and the afternoon rapidly went downhill from there. He handed me the freight bill which listed an unspecified item (they often do; it’ll say “appliance” or the like rather than be more specific) with a weight of 450 pounds.  Sure enough, when he opened the door to his trailer, there it was, looming monolithically over us.  It only took a second to see that not only was it going to be too heavy for Amanda and I to move ourselves, but it was also very possibly too big for the shipping hall entrance.

While the driver began unloading it, we went to work doing whatever we could to widen the entrance.  There was a light fixture taking up a few inches in the shipping hall that I hastily removed. From there we switched to clearing out the hall as much as possible and discovering that even if we could get the fridge inside, the doors would be unable to close.

The worst part, for me, was that prior to coming to Bat World, I’d spent eleven years working in a warehouse, where part of my responsibilities had been to handle the unloading of the larger, heavier and more awkward shipments that came in:  huge bundles of steel, tower sections, and anything else that would make insurance companies tremble to see balanced in the air on a forklift.  There, I could have literally unloaded this thing in about thirty seconds.  It stung more than a little to be so stymied by a refrigerator.

It wasn’t just us; the driver didn’t have an easy time of it either.  To get the fridge over the curb and on the sidewalk in front of Bat World’s facility, he had to drag it with his pallet jack all the way to the end of the block and up the incline at the crosswalk, then walk it down the sidewalk back to our entrance.  And that, per his company’s insurance regulations, was all he could do for us.  It was up to us to get it the rest of the way.

So there it sat, so close, yet so far.  The thing was even mounted on wheels, but it also sat on a skid, and thus the wheels weren’t actually touching the ground.  It was all very frustrating until Amanda seized upon an idea: our contractor who is overseeing the work on the new facility must know somebody who could help us!  They’d surely have access to the right equipment as well!  One apprehensive phone call later – as we had absolutely no Plan B if they couldn’t or were unwilling to help – and a crew was en route.  Good guy, our contractor.

I left at this point to go home, as the bats were set for the day and there was nothing else I could contribute.  In doing so, I missed the fun that came later, such as the crew that didn’t speak English, or the mailbox being removed from the glass door to see if that allowed room, and when it didn’t, both glass entry doors were removed from their hinges. Amanda stood by holding and handing out any tools they might need and hanging onto screws that had to be removed from the doors,  trying her best to help in small ways despite the language barrier. There was also the removal of the fridge from its skid by sheer muscle power, which makes the ex-warehouse worker in me both cringe and nod approvingly at the same time.  Even with a proper crew rather than two mere bat rescuers, that couldn’t have been easy.

The dream fridge safely tucked away

For their efforts, which resulted in the fridge safely squeezed inside and the glass doors and mailbox all back in place, Amanda gave them the closest thing on hand in an attempt to show gratitude: a few pieces of individually wrapped Valentine’s Day candy.  It was her sincere hope that they didn’t misinterpret her small gift.

In the end, the fridge ended up safely stored in the far end of the shipping hall where it sits now, completely blocking one of our shelves, a reminder of the surplus of space we’ll soon have at the new facility and the uncommon generosity of our supporters.  It will make feeding Peekaboo and her cohorts easier in a million different ways.  Our stocks will be all in one place, we won’t have to track ripeness or spoilage for each different kind of fruit as it’ll all be preserved and all of it can be procured at once, maybe as far as two weeks in advance.  It’s hard to believe, but then, as we well know, that is one huge refrigerator.

Still, every time I’m in the shipping hall now and see it, only one thought comes to mind: Someday, and soon, we’ll have to move it again.  Science has about a month to perfect teleportation before be move, and I for one am holding out hope.

Do it for the bats, science.  Please.

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