Oregon Zoo veterinarians and zookeepers have worked to save a rare baby fruit bat that almost didn't live past its first day after being rejected by its mother.
Sara, one of several Rodrigues flying foxes at the zoo's "bat cave," gave birth to a pup on March 10. Keepers found the tiny baby bat on the floor of the habitat the following day.
The pup weighed less than 2 ounces and felt cold to the touch. Zookeepers took the female bat to the zoo's veterinary medical center, where it was warmed, given fluids and determined to be in good health.
Several reunion attempts were rejected by the mother, so the baby was returned to the hospital. Animal care staff worked in shifts to administer formula feedings and, while the pup is now out of the ICU, the bat will require a long hand-rearing process that involves nine bottle feedings a day.
According to the Oregon Zoo, the species is native only to Rodrigues - a tiny island in the Indian Ocean about 900 miles east of Madagascar - and plays an important ecological role on the island, where few other pollinators or seed dispersers exist. By the 1970s, much of the bats' forest habitat had been cleared, and the species was on the brink of extinction. After a cyclone hit there in 1979, only 70 individual bats remained, making the Rodrigues flying fox the rarest bat in the world.
Today, the Rodrigues flying fox population has increased to around 20,000 thanks to 40 years of conservation activity, including the Rodrigues Environmental Educator Project launched by the Philadelphia Zoo in 1998.
The Oregon Zoo began housing "Rods" in 1994, and has raised more than 40 pups since then, periodically sending bats to other zoos as part of the Rodrigues flying fox Species Survival Plan.