Welcome to our new website and first blog, and meet some spectacled flying-fox pups (photo above), the main reason for the existence of Tolga Bat Hospital. Eight months of each year is devoted to their care. Our calendar divides into Orphan Release season (February to May), Tourist season (June to September) and Tick season (October to January). These all overlap in that we get tourists all year round, ticks can extend early into the new year and we get orphans of other species at other times.
Bat carers are a special subculture of people especially those of us who do it full time. We are passionate about bats and ‘do’ them 7 days a week so the usual time-off rituals don’t apply. We don’t do weekends, public holidays or long weekends. ‘Have a good weekend , how was your weekend?’ Sometimes we answer these questions truthfully and sometimes it just goes over our heads and we mumble what is expected.
Although the truthful answer to such casual greetings is ‘much the same as every other day’, my days are hugely variable: they are a mix of rescues, caring, cleaning cages, organising bat food, running a household of live-in volunteers, school talks, email/telephone enquiries, visitor centre tours, volunteers to train and manage, administration (being a business, charity and not for profit), repairs and maintenance, 5 acres of gardens. It’s a bit like the column in the Guardian Weekly ‘What I’m Really Thinking’.
We all have something to keep us a little in the real world though – mine include kelpies, family, friends, bushwalking, gardening, writers festivals, reading, mountain biking etc. I started working with bats in 1990 while I was working full-time as a physiotherapist. Slowly it took over my life until I went full-time bats in 2004.
I’ll try to write a blog with milestones and rituals relevant to ‘a batty life’. I’ll try for blogs focussed around our seasons plus bonus blogs whenever something really interesting happens or the mood takes me.
Look into these eyes and you will understand how people become passionate about bats. As humans we generally relate best to animals with large eyes like us, though some of the microbats with very small eyes like our Lady Di (diadem leaf-nose bat) win you over with their personality.
Bat carers learn to expect little or no congratulation or understanding for their passion, unlike if they were volunteering at a cat or dog refuge. The general public has been fed a diet of negative bat messages. This is where our Visitor Centre and school talks are so important – meeting a bat up close and watching it eating, interacting or just being can be enough to kickstart an appreciation for these much maligned animals. Their critical importance in almost all ecosystems on this planet is the icing on the cake.