Two adorable fruit bat pups are being cared for by staff at a British wildlife park after weeks of being hand-reared by one of them in her home.
Bruce and Wayne were left to fend for themselves in their enclosure at Cotswold Wildlife Park when their mother did not return to feed them after their enclosure had undergone renovation.
One of the wildlife park’s staff members, Natalie Horner, decided to become a surrogate mother to the two bats, who were 4-6 weeks old at the time, and took them home with her as they would not survive without their mother.
Bruce and Wayne were unable to maintain their own body temperature at first and had to be kept in an incubator for two weeks and monitored closely.
"I had to feed the babies every three hours in the early days. They were given milk as well as mashed fruit,” Horner said. “The first feed of the day was at 6 o'clock in the morning and the last feed was at midnight.”
Horner would wrap the bats in blankets as she fed them to give them comfort.
"As soon as they finished their feed (and sometimes during) they would fall asleep wrapped in their blankets. It really melted my heart,” Horner said.
Horner said the bats then began flying lessons in the guest room of her home once they got strong enough at 10 weeks old.
“This was great fun. Bats instinctively know how to fly so they just needed a little bit of encouragement,” Horner said. "I would hang them from my finger and gently bob them up and down to encourage them to wing beat.”
Although the first lesson went as expected, ending with the bats on the floor, they quickly learned.
“It didn't take long at all for their muscles to strengthen and for them to fly from one side of the room to the other,” Horner said. "From then we had nightly flying lessons. As soon as they were able to fly comfortably around my spare room they were upgraded to their own enclosure at the park before being reintroduced to the colony.”
Bruce and Wayne are now happy and healthy in the enclosure with the colony. Horner said it was such a proud moment to put them back where they belong — with their family.
"It was such a proud moment for me and such a happy ending to what had been four amazing months,” Horner said. "To see the babies back with their family made all the hard work worth it. I'm so happy for them to be back where they belong.”