Flying fox babies drink milk of human kindness on trip south

NINETY-eight cute refugees arrived in Brisbane from Cairns - every one of them needing a bottle-feed and a cuddle.

The vulnerable spectacled flying fox babies are all orphans, having lost their parents through starvation, scrub ticks or possibly predatory behaviour by humans.

They came from the Tolga Bat Hospital on the Atherton Tableland where carers have been overwhelmed with orphans.

Australian Bat Clinic and Wildlife Trauma Centre spokeswoman Trish Wembley said the bats would need to be housed at Advancetown on the Gold Coast for six to eight weeks.

"Getting them back up north will be a different thing," she said. "They'll be a lot bigger then."

The bats will be fed human baby formula every four hours.

"We're always busy but the good thing about bat carers is that when a situation like this arises, everyone pulls together to help out. Even the public helps out, despite scares about Hendra (virus).

"Bats are the giant bees that pollinate forests and it's extremely important that we do what we do."

RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty said flying fox adults succumbed to tick paralysis and it was thought food sources were short after Cyclone Yasi destroyed forests in February.

This forced them to forage closer to the ground where they came in range of deadly ticks.

"We've arranged for the orphans to be flown down courtesy of Dogtainers and local wildlife carers will take over from there," Mr Beatty said.

Brisbane Bat Care spokeswoman Louise Saunders said Biosecurity Queensland was investigating the seasonal deaths of flying foxes.

There are fears the animals were being shot or electrocuted in the Cairns-Atherton Tableland area simply because of the large and regular numbers of orphans being found.

"Something sinister is going on in relation to the high numbers of adults not returning to camps," she said.

In 2008, about 50 orphaned flying foxes were brought south to be cared for after Cyclone Larry ripped through forests.

The growth of the exotic wild tobacco, a shrubby plant that fruits low to the ground where the deadly paralysis ticks live, is also thought to entice bats away from their normal high-level tree foraging, allowing the ticks to strike.


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BATS. Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit bats and Microbats: Flying fox babies drink milk of human kindness on trip south
Flying fox babies drink milk of human kindness on trip south
BATS. Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit bats and Microbats
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