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Essence of Bats

By Amanda Lollar

What do bats smell like? We get this question a lot and it’s actually a fun question to answer. Bats do have an odor but they don’t stink; in fact, their scents range from pleasant to weird depending on the species and even their activities. Below is a personal description of the various “essences of bats” I have encountered over the past 25 years.

BRAZILIAN FREE-TAILED BATS
I first noticed the smell of Brazilian free-tails back in the early 90s when I detected a familiar odor coming from their tiny 2″ bodies.

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Free-tailed bats snuggling together in a denim roosting pouch.

For the longest time I couldn’t put my finger on what they smelled like, I just knew the scent was pleasant. Then, one day, while walking down a grocery store aisle, I smelled it, the unmistakable smell of a Brazilian free-tailed bat – only it wasn’t a bat, it was corn tortillas! I picked up a package, held it under my nose and sniffed. There it was, the sweet smell of corn masa – so close to a free-tailed bat it was hard to tell the difference. Years later I shared this information with my then co-author and she shared it with a researcher who decided to investigate further. Using odor-tracking software, the researcher discovered that Brazilian free-tailed bats share the same chemical compound responsible for corn flour: 2-aminoacetophenone (read paper here). This compound is present in tortillas and many other foods. Interestingly, a primary portion of a free-tailed bat’s diet in the wild is the corn-borer moth.  Another interesting note is that during release and right before take off,  male Brazilian free-tailed bats emit a scent that smells like a bouquet of flowers.


HOARY BATS AND RED BATS
Hoary bats and red bats are both solitary species that roost in trees. Their unique fur coloring helps to camouflage them and keep them safe by making them appear as pine cones, dried leaves or even tree bark. These insect-eating bats are among the most beautiful in the US but have the unfortunate (albeit very faint) odor of fish combined with urine.

Bat World Sanctuary
A hoary bat on the left and a red bat on the right.


PALLID BATS
In my opinion big-eared pallid bats are the true fairies of the wood. They are exquisite little beings with endearing faces, yet these gentle bats are known for their ability to eat scorpions and centipedes while remaining oblivious to the stings. They don’t have much of an odor unless they are under stress. When that happens they smell very much like a skunk.

Bat World Sanctuary


EVENING BATS

Evening bats resemble miniature 2″ grizzly bears. They eat cucumber beetles, Japanese beetles, carabidae beetles, June bugs, flying ants, spittle bugs, stinkbugs, and small moths, and they smell like burnt oranges.

Bat World Sanctuary
An evening bat snuggled up in green fleece fabric


AFRICAN FRUIT BATS

Sometimes called straw-colored fruit bats, these cat-sized bats eat dates, baobab flowers, mangoes, pawpaws, avocados, figs, passion fruit and more, helping to spread the seeds of these plants over thousands of miles in Africa. African fruit bats don’t have much of an odor unless they are stressed. When that happens they smell like licorice combined with road tar.

Bat World Sanctuary
Boris, an African fruit bat at Bat World Sanctuary.


EGYPTIAN FRUIT BATS
These squirrel-sized bats eat a variety of exotic fruits from tropical shrubs and trees in the wild. Wild dates and figs are among their favorite foods but they also enjoy plant nectar. These bats have the pleasant aroma of warm fruit jam.

Bat World Sanctuary
Peekaboo, an Egyptian fruit bat, posing for the camera.


JAMAICAN FRUIT BATS
These hamster-sized bats eat fragrant fruits like figs, various leaves, flowers, pollen, nectar and even nuts in the wild. They also help to spread the seeds of the allspice tree which brings in millions of dollars a year to Jamaica’s economy. These bats don’t have much of a smell individually but when snuggled together they emit a fragrance comparable to perfumed soap.

Bat World Sanctuary
Two Jamaican fruit bats roosting in a plastic flower pot lined with mesh and turned upside-down.

 

ETHICS FOR BAT REHABILITATION


1. Prison or Paradise
Bats and other wild animals do not want to be taken into captivity. Regardless of why a bat is in your care, you are its captor. You control everything about a caged bat’s life, whether it has fresh water, nutritious and tasty food, enrichment, the company of its kind, and medication for ailments and pain. A barren enclosure is a prison, it leaves a caged bat nothing to look forward to and nothing to occupy its intelligent mind. As a captor, it is YOUR responsibility to create paradise for a bat that you have chosen to cage. Silk foliage, roosting pouches and fleece cloths, foam rocks and rubber netting, bark, proper floor padding and fresh food and water daily are critical items that brighten a bat’s life. Enrichment also eases stress and promotes healing, resulting in a faster release time.

2. Respect vs Nurturing
Most people get involved in wildlife rehabilitation not just for the good it does for the animal but also the good it does for oneself. Providing nurture and watching an animal thrive under your care is a wonderful feeling, however, that feeling should never overpower the proper respect an animal deserves. Every captive bat deserves a peaceful existence, free from stress of being over-handled or over-bothered by constant intrusions. Provide just what they need to be happy and not what YOU need for a warm-fuzzy.

3. Over-Confidence Kills
A good wildlife rehabilitator always second-guesses his or her self and usually blames themselves over the loss of an animal. Every mistake or loss needs to be an opportunity to learn so that bat did not die in vain. Ask yourself what could have been done differently, or what did you miss? If there was nothing that could have been done, what knowledge did you gain that can be used to help save the next bat? Learning from mistakes will make you a better rehabber. Being overly confident ruins your ability to learn from your mistakes and will cause more bats to die in your care.

The Bats still Poop on Christmas Day

At most animal sanctuaries, Christmas day is just like any other. Resident animals must be cared for and rescues still take place. That’s no exception at Bat World Sanctuary. The bats don’t know it’s Christmas, of course, they only know they getting extra treats, toys and decorations added to their enclosure  – decorations they haven’t seen since this time last year.

Rescued African fruit bats receiving a surprise of melon cubes in a Christmas bag. They ate all the melon cubes and then pulled out the paper towel lining the bottom.
Rescued African fruit bats receiving a surprise of melon cubes in a Christmas bag. They ate all the melon cubes and then pulled out the paper towel lining the bottom.

A staff of two take care of the bats on Christmas day, myself (Amanda) and Assistant Director, Terri. The other staff members are off enjoying time with their families. Between the two of us we manage to get everything done in about four hours so we still have plenty of family time as well. While we work we spend a lot of time having fun, always joking that we could never take December 25th off  because “The bats still poop on Christmas day!”

We also talk about how grateful we are to our supporters, because without them we wouldn’t have the means to take care of the bats on Christmas or any other day of the year. We are also grateful for the many shoppers who visited batworldstore.org and bought educational gifts that spread the good word about bats while bringing in extra funds to help our rescue efforts.

This year was even more exceptional because our supporters contributed enough on North Texas Giving Day to provide food for the bats for an entire year, ensuring that next year, the bats can still poop on Christmas day.

And for that we are eternally grateful.

A Special Delivery

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The containers holding the bats after they were moved from our shipping hall to Bat World’s clinic.

On December the 9th we had an odd delivery of two containers covered in cloths found in our delivery hall after we came back from a supply run. The containers held 19 non-releasable bats of various ages including 7 free-tails, 3 big browns, 8 pallids and 1 Myotis bat. There was a note attached to one container which read “Please take care of them.”

All the bats except one had injuries that had long since healed. One bat, a female free-tail, had a serious injury that resulted in the loss of her wing. She was already in the process of healing but we started her onpain medications and antibiotics to speed her healing. All of the  bats had bright eyes and were a good weight so it was obvious that someone had been taking good care of them for quite a while.

melody-healing-web
Little Melody, slowly healing.

The bats were evaluated and over the next few days we discovered that most of them were self-feeding. Over the next week, all but the injured free-tail were slowly introduced into the existing non-releasable bat colony at Bat World. The injured female (that we call Melody) was placed into an incubator in our clinic with another free-tailed bat suffering with frost bite. At this writing little Melody has since learned to eat from a dish so both she and little “Frosty” will be moved into the flight enclosure very soon.

The remaining bats gradually settled in, making friends with their new free-tail and big brown roost mates. Some of the bats moved into the simulated cave provided for the handicapped bats while the pallid bats chose to move into another simulated cave at at the opposite end of the flight enclosure. At this writing all of the bats are doing extremely well and are adapting to their new life at Bat World Sanctuary.

One of the pallid bats taking a break on top of a simulated rock in Bat World's flight enclosure.
One of the pallid bats taking a break on top of a simulated rock in Bat World’s flight enclosure.

 

SPECIAL NOTE:
We hope the person who left these bats with us is reading this. If you are, please rest assured that we will take good care of them and they are welcome to stay with us for life. We don’t know your circumstances but we wish you the best, and we thank you for saving these bats from whatever tragedies they once faced.

Watch us LIVE on Giving Day! 9-22-16

On September 22, 2016 (North Texas Giving Day) you were invited to watch us LIVE from 8:00 am until 11am-noon CST as we went through our daily routine at Bat World Sanctuary, cleaning enclosures, hand-feeding disabled bats and preparing bat food. 100% of all the money we raised on that day was deposited into our Food Account in order to provide food for the bats we care for and rescue next year. We needed to raise at least $35,000 to cover the cost of both food and medicine for 2017.  Click here to view the results from Giving Day! Giving Day donations, as well as the donations we received through paypal and other means, totaled an astounding 40,515!!!

Here is a summary of what your donations have furnished for the bats:

$25 = 1 box of bananas (156 boxes needed annually)
$40 = 1 box apples (364 needed annually) or 1 box sweet potatoes (104 annually)
$50 = 1 box of pears (104 needed annually)
$250 = 40,000 meal worms (24 needed annually)
$500 = 5 days of food for both the fruit and insect eating bats
$1,000 = 10 days of food and medication for the sanctuary bats & those we rescue
$3,000 = 30 days of food and medication for the sanctuary bats & those we rescue

PLEASE ENJOY THIS FOOTAGE (including bloopers!) MADE FROM OUR LIVE CAMS ON 9/22/16.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW OUR LIVE BAT CAM PAGE THAT INCLUDES 5 CAMERAS

Award for Sanctuary Excellence

From the GFAS website:
Amanda Lollar of GFAS-accredited Bat World Sanctuary is the eighth recipient of the Carole Noon Award for Sanctuary Excellence given annually by Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

Photo A.Lollar-7-27-16 (1)Washington DC – The 2016 Carole Noon Award for Sanctuary Excellence recipient was announced by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS). This year Amanda Lollar of GFAS-accredited Bat World Sanctuary was singled out for her leadership in supporting the welfare of bats as a caregiver, educator and advocate.

The Carole Noon Award for Sanctuary Excellence is given annually to a sanctuary or individual who embodies and puts into practice the GFAS philosophy of vision, dedication and excellence in animal care. It memorializes Carole Noon, founder of Save the Chimps in Fort Pierce, Florida, the world’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary.

“For decades, Amanda has been a tireless champion for this often misunderstood, maligned and underserved group of animals,” says Kellie Heckman, GFAS executive director. “She is the expert in captive bat care and management and an inspiration to all for her passion and dedication. We are excited and honored to provide her with the recognition she deserves.”

Amanda Lollar founded Bat World Sanctuary in Weatherford, TX in 1994, after rehabilitating her first injured bat in 1988. Amanda has since volunteered her time seven days a week, 365 days per year, 12 to 16 hours per day. The Sanctuary currently cares for over 200 permanent residents. Over the past two decades, Amanda has personally saved the lives of thousands of bats, including over 2,000 starving and injured orphaned bats which were hand-raised and released back to the wild.

Lollar shared her thoughts about the achievement, saying, “Bats are miraculous creatures that deserve our protection. They are highly intelligent, have remarkable language skills, and form deep social connections. It has been my life’s work and my greatest joy to defend and support the species. I thank GFAS for this monumental recognition and for all they do to protect the animals of the world by making certain Dr. Noon’s passion and compassion lives on.”

“Amanda has trained over 400 zoologists, veterinarians, and other animal care professionals from every bat-inhabited continent in the world. It is not an exaggeration to say that Amanda has saved hundreds of thousands of bats across the globe due to her hands-on ability and her willingness to share her knowledge. We are so very grateful to GFAS for bestowing this much-deserved award upon Amanda, who makes us proud each and every day,” elaborates Dottie Hyatt, Vice President of Bat World Sanctuary.

An award will be presented to Ms. Lollar in person at a ceremony in the fall at Bat World Sanctuary.

About Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries:

Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the sole purpose of strengthening and supporting the work of animal sanctuaries/rescues worldwide. The goal of GFAS in working with and assisting sanctuaries/rescues is to ensure they are supported, honored, recognized and rewarded for meeting important criteria in providing care to the animals in residence. GFAS was founded in 2007 by animal protection leaders from a number of different organizations in response to virtually unchecked and often hidden exploitation of animals for human entertainment and financial profit. The GFAS Board of Directors guides the organization’s work in a collaborative manner. They represent top leadership from Born Free USA, The Humane Society of the United States, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and American Anti-Vivisection Society. For more information, visit: www.sanctuaryfederation.org.

Bat Tattoo Contest & Fundraiser!

This contest was created to help us raise funds to care for orphaned and injured bats.

Each tattoo (see below) has been assigned a number which donors will use when casting their votes. The tattoo receiving the most votes wins an autographed, matted print of Peekaboo as shown below. The winner will also receive a plush bat of their choice. Limit one tattoo per person. Deadline for submission is June 30th, midnight CST.

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Click to view tattoos


THE TATTOS

Click the image to be taken to a page to view the 50+ tattoos. Each tattoo is assigned a number. Once you pick your favorite, return here to donate/vote. When voting please be sure to list the number of the tattoo you are voting on in the notes section. Each dollar donated counts as one vote. Voting will take place from July 1st through July 10th. Winner will be notified on or by July 12th.
 
 
WINNER: Congrats to bat tat owner #54! Here is the final count:

#54 – 176 votes
#01 – 120 votes
#25 – 83 votes
#12 – 75 votes
#13 – 65 votes
#06 – 55 votes
#43 – 35 votes
#34 – 30 votes
#40 – 30 votes
#30 – 11 votes
#20 – 11 votes
#41 – 10 votes
#50 – 10 votes
#11 – 10 votes
#34 – 8 votes
#33 – 5 votes
#48 – 5 votes
#04 – 4 votes
#07 – 3 votes
#18 – 1 vote
#02 – 1 vote
#24 – 1vote
#15 – 1 vote
#27 – 1 vote
#30 – 1 vote
#36 – 1 vote

Saving the Palestine Bats

The city of Palestine, Texas loves their bats.

They have had thousands of bats roosting in their downtown buildings for several years. And even though they sometimes create an odor, the city wants the bats to stay in the area because of the tremendous amount of insect control these bats provide.

Kate Rugroroden, Bat World's Director of Special Projects, meets with Palestine city officials
Kate Rugroroden, Bat World’s Director of Special Projects, meets with Palestine city officials

On May 21, 2016, Bat World’s Director of Special Projects, Kate Rugroden, met with approximately 15 residents and local officials from the City of Palestine and members of the East Texas Chapter of Master Naturalists, to discuss how best to handle the humane removal and ultimate preservation of several colonies of bats from historic buildings in the downtown Palestine area.

Several ideas were discussed, including installing bat houses on the affected buildings and installing ‘rocket’ style bat towers throughout the city. We also covered ways to engage the community, such as a bat fair, bat house building events, educational programs, and news articles/press releases.

One promising idivanhoe2ea being considered is creating a sanctuary that has sufficient space around it for a decent perimeter as well as places to build patios for viewing. One building (built in 1913) suffered a catastrophic structural failure some years ago. Originally a 4-story structure, the 3rd and 4th floors collapsed and the roof fell in. One suggestion, which seems to have a lot of traction, is to have that building fitted out as a bat sanctuary. There are open areas on three sides of the building which would establish a safe perimeter and allow businesses to set up viewing areas, where visitors could watch the nightly emergence. The fourth side of the building contains large picture windows. The local middle and high school students could be given the opportunity to design educational window displays, paint murals, etc. City staff would be responsible for checking the building periodically, removing excess guano and ensuring the building is secure.

The project is expected to take several years to complete, given the number of buildings involved. The East Texas Master Naturalists will be active participants, assisting with outreach, public education, and building bat houses. Bat World Sanctuary’s involvement will include consulting on design and placement of bat houses, educational programs and materials, and providing contact information for additional resources.

We are extremely pleased to be part of this wonderful initiative, and the enthusiasm demonstrated by the people of Palestine for protecting the bats is encouraging beyond measure.

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, Marsha 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 survivors.

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.

UPDATE – Feb 8, 2016:
Sadly, Ella passed away the day after posting this story, however, the remaining Houston Four, under the expert care of Kate Rugroden, our Director of Special projects, have now fully recovered. They will live their lives out in peace and comfort at our Bat World MidCities rescue center.

UPDATE – Feb 24, 2016:
The four survivors, now known as The Houston Four, have fully recovered and have adjusted to their new life at our rescue center, Bat World MidCities. The photo below was taken 2/24/16.

The Houston Four, fully recovered.
The Houston Four, fully recovered.

 

Exposing Unscrupulous Exotic Pet Trade Dealers

Please warn others to never buy a bat as a pet.

bats for sale
List of unscrupulous exotic pet trade dealers who do not disclose the information that the high price paid for a pet bat ($800 to $2,500) will be wasted because there is a high probability that the bat will die within just a few months:

BUYER BEWARE

Flying Fox Conservation Fund
Zoological Wildlife Conservation Center
Noah’s Landing Zoo
Exotic Animals For Sale
Mark Rosenthal’s Animal Magic

 

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