Rachel, Juvenile Flying-Fox, Part 2

Rachel, Juvenile Flying-Fox, Part 2:

On the morning of 9 June 2020, WIRES & Sydney Wildlife Emergency Rescue received a call from a police officer as follows:

'We are Police Officers attending a Redfern premises on another matter, and noticed a flying-fox on the ground being attacked by crows. The small bat is now climbing up a wall, approximately half a metre up. No damage to wings observed, however the bat is shaking like a leaf. We, Constables Jason & Rachel, need to leave but have concerns that the crows will come back.......'

Since then Rachel, the juvenile bat, has recovered from the corneal ulcers she had in both eyes, as well as the swollen and infected thumb. She has put on weight, and she is now in the company of several other juvenile flying-foxes, who like Rachel had got into trouble on one of their early flights. The young bats were all very small in size on intake, however they have now graduated to a large flight aviary where they will be able to further develop their flight skills and gain in strength and size, prior to release in Spring.

This ‘overwintering’ will help to give the young flying-foxes their best chance of survival at release, when the weather is less changeable, natural food will be more plentiful and they will be more confident and stronger flyers.

Thoughts on Husbandry in Winter for Captive Flying-Foxes:

1.  Food:

More flight activity in cold weather will mean captive flying-foxes will need more fuel than many of the husbandry manuals suggest. Watch the buckets carefully and remember that if there is no food left, someone might have gone hungry. The amount of chopped fruit provided, in that instance, will need to be increased.

2.  More animals in an aviary may encourage more competition for food:

If a lot of fruit is dropped to the ground and not plentiful enough, then the smaller and/or more submissive animals may feel the need to go to the ground to feed.

This is not natural behaviour and could also put an already compromised animal in a position where, if it gets wet and comes into contact with fecal matter, it could lead to bacterial or fungal infections, ie. ‘slimy wing’.

So be vigilant, feed enough, watch and observe the behaviour of the young flying-foxes and assess whether sufficient food is being offered.

3.  Make sure that there is access to sunlight:

The positioning of an aviary is so important. The animals need sun and air and space to fully open their wings and ensure that fungal infections such as ‘slimy wing’ do not develop.

Black flying-foxes are particularly susceptible to the cold and often lose their ear tips to frost bite and infection if they are not housed suitably in Winter weather.

Grey-headed flying-foxes can also be susceptible to ‘slimy wing’ which, if it develops unchecked, could make an animal un-releasable in the future.

4. Animals coming into care have suffered an injury or are ill:

Rescued flying-foxes’ immune systems and general health can be further negatively impacted by external or husbandry stressors, so it’s important to keep them in a stress free environment away from predators, noisy humans and pets.

Fortunately Rachael and friends have access to plenty of space to fly in, fresh blossom and foliage, hangings to keep them dry and warm on very rainy days, and I am pleased to report that all the juvenile flying-foxes are now doing really well, preparing for release in Spring.

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