In a remarkable tale of care, a premature grey-headed flying fox that has been looked after by north-coast WIRES volunteers and hand fed for three months is now ready for release.
The group’s chief bat-carer Lib Ruytenberg said the little fellow was found by a group of Shearwater Steiner students at Mullumbimby .
When he first came came into WIRES’ care, the tiny newborn weighed only 46 grams, about half the normal birth weight.
He was kept in a humidicrib for the first few weeks and would take less than 1 ml of special formula per feed.
‘Attempting to raise a pup like this is a delicate task and uncertain in its outcome,’ Libe said.
‘Flying-fox pups normally open their eyes immediately after birth but this little guy did not open his eyes until he was 11 days old.
‘As the weeks went by, he continued to grow and finally convinced carers that he would indeed survive. Now at nearly 300 grams and flying, he is enjoying blossoms and fruit and will soon be released with other flying fox orphans.’
Lib said that while adult bats are normally released near the colony that they came from, in the case of pups ‘they need to be “soft fed’ for a period of time after they are released’.
‘In our area there are only two care facilities in the region of bat camps: they are at Bellingen and Alstonville, so he will be released in one of those two places some time in the next couple of weeks,’ she said.
Interestingly, flying foxes are the only wildlife species which benefit from forming a bond with a human. WIRES have to be careful not to humanise all other wildlife species. Flying-foxes, however, bond with their human carer for the first 10 weeks of life then, just like human teenagers, only want to mix with their own kind and are no longer interested in their primary carers.
Flying foxes are very special animals. They are the only flying mammals and, as nature’s gardeners, they are the only pollinators and long-distance carriers of seeds to enable the growth of particular hardwood trees. Rainforests would be sparse without them.
Grey-headed flying foxes are categorised as vulnerable to extinction on the national Threatened Species list.
WIRES is a registered charity, not a government service, and relies heavily on donations from the general public.
The all-volunteer Northern Rivers branch needs various types of assistance — as not all members do animal rescues. Call the local 24-hour hotline on 6628 1898 or go to http://wiresnr.org/Helping.html to find out how you can help.