Last Monday I began my trip from the Oakland Zoo to Atherton, Queensland, Australia to volunteer for three weeks at the Toga Bat Hospital. From the moment I arrived (on Wednesday, because of the long travel time and the time difference) it was straight down to business. My first duty as a volunteer was to feed a fun little Yellow-Bellied Sheathtail Bat (Saccolaimus flaviventris) named “Buttercup”. Buttercup is one of approx. 100 bats that reside permanently at the hospital. Injured as a juvenile far away from the bat hospital, the people who found her thought she was a fruit bat out of her normal range and so fed her fruit until she ended up at the bat hospital. Because she was never fed a proper diet of insects she needs help eating her daily diet of mealworms. What makes her funny is she likes to eat in very ungainly positions such as seated on her
She may take a mealworm in one position but want to finish it in another. Sometimes she needs to be rotated between the positions. We try to get about 20 mealworms dipped in supplements into her while juggling her between the three different postures. It was quite the introduction to my life for the next three weeks as I sat there in the sundress that I had just changed into in Cairns because of the intense heat and humidity feeding a bat, sitting her upright on my lap. It was the first of many fantastic experiences that I would have.
I am extremely happy to be here due to the generosity of Elaine and Warren Lash who established a yearly fund to send an Oakland Zoo staff member to participate directly in a conservation project. Without their contribution, I would not have been able to partake in this incredible experience.