Braided Streams

Reflections | Travels | Interests

The Tiniest Bat

The Dongas, my place of residence, shared with three interns, is really just a trailer.  But we have a fabulous veranda that runs the length of the six-bedroom dwelling with plenty of places to sit and relax.  The veranda faces west, and if we're there at the right time, we can watch the sun set.  We're rarely home before it gets dark, but on one recent afternoon, I grabbed a cold drink and a book and went to relax in my hammock.

The first thing that I saw in the hammock was a lot of poop, but I wasn't sure who it was from.  As I opened the hammock, however, I saw a small brown lump.  I quickly realized that it was a bat roosting in the hammock and covered him back up again to enjoy his remaining hours of sleep before darkness fell.

I checked every now and then to see if the bat was still sleeping in the hammock, and he usually was.  When we prepared for Cyclone Ita, I moved all of the other porch furniture indoors, but I left the hammock hanging because I knew the bat was inside.  Someone else took it down, however, not knowing there was a bat inside, and folded it up and put it in our common room.  After two days and two nights spent at the main Centre building, I headed back to the Dongas to clean up and found the folded hammock indoors.  The poor little bat had been trapped inside.  I'm sure there would have been plenty for him to eat in our common room (it is the rainforest, after all; bugs do get inside), but because the hammock was folded up, he couldn't get out if he wanted to.  I checked to make sure he hadn't been crushed in the process and then covered him back up again.

Before it got dark, together with the Rainforest Ecology professor, we collected the small bat in a bag.  We wanted to give him a bit of nourishment before we set him loose again, since it had been days since he'd eaten.  Once it was dark, we brought the students to the Dongas and carefully let the bat's head out of the bag.  We fed him a sugar solution with a tiny eye dropper.

Watching the bat's tiny tongue slurp up the sugar solution is quite possibly one of the cutest things I've ever witnessed in my life.  We believe the bat is an Eastern Forest Bat, but the only way to tell for sure is to look at the penis.  We aren't trained in handling bats, so we didn't look to be sure.  The bat is most likely a male, however, because males more commonly roost alone, rather than in social groups.

After the bat seemed full, we let him fly away.  He hasn't come back to my hammock, so we can only hope that he found a safer roost, or perhaps a mate.