Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bats, Bettongs, and Beyond

Tolga has rehabilitating, orphaned, and permanent care mega and micro bats. Some of its bats are even from previous zoo collections. Due to the number of bats in care, there are many species. This is just a quick look at some of the beautiful animals I had the opportunity to work with.

Spectacled Flying Fox
Spectacled are by far the most plentiful bat at Tolga bat Hospital. Flying foxes live together in large trees. There used to be a large wild colony close to the hospital, but in the past few years they have moved to new areas. During my time in Queensland, there was quite a drama caused when the local government in Cairns decided to prune a tree to bits in order to force away a wild population of these megabats due to their noise and mess. This species is most likely to be admitted into care due to paralytic ticks. 

Black Flying Fox
These bear like flying foxes are the largest species. One very interesting fact I learned about fruit bats are that they are closer in relation to lemurs than to microbats (insect eating bats). This helps explain thier highly inquisive behavior. Unfortunately, I can't recall the name of it, but there was a big boy bat who would climb all the way down into the kitchen while all the other bats cowered up on top. If I didn't hang food for him right away, he would practically climb into the apple container and begin chewing down. He had plenty of food, he was just a pig. He also liked to pee on the heads of people, so it was best to feed him a distance away.

Grey Headed Flying Fox
Greying hair is not a sign of old age in these silver haired beauties. Most of the grey faced flying foxes at Tolga were once in a zoo and donated, for a reason unknown to me, to Tolga Bat Hospital. One of these aging bats living out retirement in the cative colony was Wesley. Each time I opened his cage door he would make a startling high pitched squeek. I never figured out why he did that sound other than to say Hello. It always managed to make me jump. Even when I was prepared, he would wait one second later to yell. He was quite sweet and not shy in the least. This species is known to roost in groups numbering in the thousands.

Little Red Flying Fox
Little reds were the most skittish of all the bats at Tolga. They were easily half the size of the spectacled flying foxes and easily pointed out. If disturbed at all, they would crowd into a tightly packed group of other members of their own species. One of the little reds seemed to be the leader of the group, if there was such a thing. He would nudge close to the door as food was being prepared. He showed no interest in the food, but every interest in his escape. The group followed, keeping tightly together. He was bold, but never successful.

Tube Nose Bat
The only way I could get this bat to look at me was when it was being fed juice. Because of that, all my pictures have a drop of juice hanging between the unique nostrils. I assure you, it's not snot. It isn't a terribly rare species, but it's uncommon enough to get one in captivity that this particular girl caught the attention of the Totally Wild tv show and Bob Irwin. She came into care after getting caught on a barbed wire fence. (This is a big problem in Australia and Jenny is doing a push for more people to begin using wildlife safe fencing.) Due to the injury, it is unlikely that her wing damage will ever let her fly again. Unlike the flying foxes, this species hsd a short tail, can fly through thick vegetation, and roosts alone.

I never took any pictures of the microbats. They were inside their boxes all day, so they were rarely seen other than feeding time. All microbats use echolocation to find their bug prey, while megabats use vision and smell to find their fruit and nectar food. Each microbat has a particular sound pattern and frequency that can be measured to identify bats flying overhead at night.

Other animals 
While the hospital only accepted bats, there were still a few unexpected visitors!

Occasionally a local volunteer would come to help out with projects. One of these volunteers was Susie. She helped me clean all of the cages and then looked over to me.
"Do you know what a Bettong is?"
"It sounds familiar, but I'm not quite sure," I said as I mentally scrolled through all the animals I had seen since coming to Australia, most of them mouse-like.
"It's like a tiny, chubby wallaby. I'm raising an orphaned one. Wanna see it?"
"Yes!" I exclaimed a little too excitedly, "That sounds way cuter than what I was picturing! Is it here?"
Susie led me up to the the visitor center where a warm looking fleece bag wiggled in unrest. Out popped a fuzzy little head. Susie scooped the little marsupial into her arms and carried her outside to hop around, snack on grass, and take adorable pictures with me!

Yellow Spotted Honeyeater
This beauty only hung around me for the occasional peice of fruit dropped. I was so close to teaching it to clean up the bat dishes! 

Grey Fantail, I think?
This little bird preferred to hang around the cages for food leftovers. It was a bit more difficult to determine the species. It may not be correct, but I think I got pretty close. :)

The picture above is of a Granny's Cloak Moth. For the safety and sanity of the readers of this blog, I won't include pictures of any of the numerous blood sucking or eight legged bugs I saw during my time at Tolga.

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