Somewhere to hang your bat

The grey-headed fruit bat arrived at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo in wooden boxes after being flown from Australia.

bat 88 (photo credit: )
bat 88
(photo credit: )
The large furry bats hanging from nets attached to the ceiling of their spacious cage at the zoo cannot be missed. They hang out in a passageway that connects the lower and upper parts of the Australian Yard. This rather large space, however, is wasted on these particular creatures as none of them can fly. The bats, which arrived at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo early one morning in wooden boxes after being flown from Australia, used to inhabit a special shelter for crippled bats. Sick and crippled animals that fall out of their trees are found by rangers, who then go out to bat for them, bringing them into this shelter where their lives are saved, as no bat can survive in nature without the ability to fly. This bat's formal name is "grey-headed fruit bat," but it is nicknamed "the flying fox" - perhaps because its face resembles that of a fox. This particular group of bats will never be able to fly but soon this space is going to become much more hectic. A new generation of four cubs is about to take over and caretaker Nissan Lahav believes that since flying is an innate instinct, the young cubs will soon spread their wings. One even unfolded its winged arms before our eyes, as if for a pilot trip. "The mere fact of reproduction is a sign for us that the bats feel comfortable in their new home. Once an animal is settled in its new surrounding it then feels safe enough to reproduce," explains Lahav. Since this animal spends its life upside down, one might wonder how it can manage to accomplish basic tasks, such as an everyday task like emitting waste, or a somewhat more complicated one like giving birth. Well, I witnessed the first task and I must admit it was rather funny. The bat erects (pulling its head up), spreads its winged arms and stretches them out - clinging with its nails to two parallel spots on the net. Then it drops whatever it needs to drop, gracefully shakes its little behind and, oops his head is down again. Giving birth is a little less straightforward. Once again, the female bat erects and folds its legs, so the newborn bat will not fall on the ground. Once the cub is born the female wraps her winged armed around it, turns back to its natural position and the cub just clings to its mother's nipples. From this moment on the little cub will cling to its mother at all times. The mother will continue her daily routine and even feed with the cub attached to her. "In this way she teaches the cub how to eat," explains Lahav. These hot days cause even these "flying foxes" to feel a bit bat-tered. The group hangs facing a big fan placed in the corner. They are also sprayed with water to cool them down. Popular horror movies showing the creatures caught in women's hair have given bats a bad rap. The truth is these creatures are perfectly harmless and when observed long enough, you even want to go to bat for them.