After our experiences in Indonesia we headed for Australia to learn more about the complex relationship between humans and bats by visiting local bat recuperation centres and seeing how they work with local communities.
In Brisbane we paid a visit to a member of the Bat Conservation and Rescue Queensland (BCRQ), a NGO dedicated to bat conservation. Its main work revolves around the rehabilitation of injured, under-nourished and orphaned bats, and awareness raising. In general, Australians have little fondness for bats and so it is difficult to raise the money needed to look after the around 600 flying foxes that they rescue every year. The lack of funding is made up for by the great dedication of their members, all of who are volunteers and who look after bats in their homes.
We were welcomed by Denise Wade, vice-president and coordinator of the group’s rescue efforts, in her home where she cares for around 30 bats. Her professionalism in bat care and her passion for the work she does was obvious. She establishes an emotional, almost maternal, link with each bat, which is essential if she is to provide her bats orphans with the constant care they require. Bats are part of her house: some rooms are dedicated to their rehabilitation and the decoration of the whole house is reminiscent of bats. There is a constant flow of new bats to be cared for and Denise has had only one free weekend in the last seven years! We also visited the houses of other bat-carers from the group – Connie, Christina and Louise – and found the same story: women who give up their free time to look after injured or orphaned bats.
The only part of the group’s installations that wasn’t located in members’ houses was the release cage that the BCRQ has on the outskirts of Brisbane. There, we realized just how much time and money goes into feeding almost 200 bats: for over an hour, six volunteers (once again, mainly women) cut up and placed in feeders the almost 50 kg of fruit that is the bats’ daily food ration. The group’s entire annual budget – around 18,000 dollars – is spent on buying fruit and a large part of these women’s free time is spent looking after the bats.