After being born by C-section at the San Diego Zoo and barely surviving, a 12-day-old Rodrigues fruit bat is being cared for at its nearby animal care centre, flying ahead of schedule in his development, despite a rough delivery.
The male pup is the second bat of its kind ever to be hand reared at the nursery: The first was his mother, Patty.
On January 11, bat keepers at the Zoo's Safari Park noticed the first-time mother was behaving abnormally and having labour difficultiess so vets performed the first-ever emergency C-section on a Rodrigues fruit bat.
Unfortunately, the mother Patty did not survive. So to ensure the pup's survival, animal care staff is providing round-the-clock care until the pup is old enough to be introduced to the rest of the bat colony.
Hand raising this winged mammal isn't easy as it requires a very detailed regimen and lots of affection, from its 'sock mom,' to which he is attached most of time.
To properly regulate his body temperature and provide enough humidity to maintain pliable wings, the pup stays in an incubator set between 85 and 89 degrees Fahrenheit. Staff feed the youngster inside the incubator every two hours, and feedings can take up to 45 minutes.
"Working with a bat is very unique to us here at the nursery. We've only raised one here before and they are very tiny and very fragile animals. So it comes with a lot of unique challenges," says Kimberly Millspaugh, senior animal keeper. Careful feedings are required to avoid the bats from choking to death.
The pup receives human infant formula because, similar to primates, this specialised species cannot synthesize vitamin C.
Following every feeding, the youngster is bathed with a damp cotton ball, dried off and wrapped in a warm blanket, to mimic his mother's cradling wings.
The critically endangered Rodrigues fruit bat is only found on Rodrigues Island, located about 300 miles east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. After local people cut down tamarind and mango treets, the bats' favoured food grew scarce, as did the bats.
Following a cyclone in 2003, which destroyed habitat and swept bats out to sea, they numbered only about 4,000.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has established a breeding colony as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan programme, in order to create a sustainable population. San Diego Zoo Global has also partnered with the Rodrigues Environmental Educator Programme, working with school and community groups to support bat conservation.