Most of the orphans we admit have been rescued from the camp during our daily searches. They are found on their mothers who are on the ground with tick paralysis – alive, dead or dying. Some are up in the trees calling out, of these some can be reached with a pole, or ladder and pole, and some are too high for us to reach.
While in the forest we do a quick assessment, mainly for any sign of ticks or fly eggs/maggots in the eyes or other orifices. Having checked for a cleft palate, we offer fluids, but leave the main assessment for back at the hospital.
Back at the Nursery we weigh, measure forearm length and put an ID thumb band on each bat. A brush and nit comb is used to remove any fly eggs. Those coming off a dead mother often need a full immersion bath to remove smell. We check for any asymmetries, healed fractures, injuries and most of all hydration. The vast majority of pups are in good health just a little dehydrated. They are given rehydration fluid orally, and some subcutaneously. It’s very important to continue the rehydration process over a few days.
We are able to reunite some pups with their mothers if the mother recovers quickly from tick paralysis. This can be an arduous process as the mother has just recovered from a life-threatening illness. We will only attempt this if the mother is up and hanging and eating within 3 days of admission to the hospital; and only if the baby is less than 10 days old. It will take a few days for her lactation to fully return and during this time we need to remove the pup for regular feeds. Some mothers will let you feed the pup while still on them. Even once we think milk supply is re-established, the pup still needs to be removed regularly for weighing, to check that there is enough milk. We always release the mothers with pups through the release cage with the other pups. If the mother can’t adjust back to the wild with the pup, both the pup and the mother know they can return to the cage for support feeding.
Two paralysed mothers with pups being transported together, on a day when we were overloaded.
Pup half-lying under dead mother.
Most pups this age are found with their mother, so a lone baby arises suspicion that there is something else wrong other than just being an orphan.
As the pups get older they often climb off their mothers, or stay up in the canopy when their paralysed mothers start falling.
A pole rescue often requires a ladder as well.