I am a volunteer wildlife carer and I have had a bat in my care more often than I have not.
Orphaned baby bats are not much bigger than a sausage roll. They spend their first months wrapped up and snuggled on a heat mat, replicating the comfort of their missing mother’s body.
After 15 years and close to 30 bat pups in my care, I keep them out of sight from visitors for a few reasons but the main one is avoidance of the boring opinions of Today Tonight viewers.
Years ago, I spent most of a Christmas day under attack from a bat-hating aunty-in-law.
“They are disease carriers”
“They eat my peaches”
“They wake me up at night”
“There are too many of them”
“They shit on the car”
And the most absurd: “Why don’t you just have kids?”
Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on fruit bats (and my choice to breed, or not).
As someone who has spent a great deal of time in their company, I think they are the most impressive animals on the planet.
Weighty textbooks would only start to cover the depth and breadth of their adaptations and evolution as seed spreaders and pollinators of flowering, east coast tree species.
They have been on the planet millions of years longer than we have.
They are beautiful, smart, social and hilarious.
A five-year-old once told me they look like ‘dragon puppies’, an apt description.
Apart from dogs, they are the only species I have met that look you in the eye with curiosity and connection. Sometimes it is with fear, pain or impatience. It still startles me to recognise these emotions in a species that is not my own.
I am fascinated by the way our culture demonises some animals and worships others – for example, miscarriage-causing toxoplasmosis and the toll on native wildlife have no effect on the status of cats in our society because we love them unconditionally.
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