We have all 4 species of Australian flying foxes in permanent care, as well as tube-nosed bats and microbats.


We have relevant permits from Queensland National Parks and Wildlife to keep a small number of adults that are too injured to return to the wild. Most of these bats cannot fly due to loss of wing membrane, mainly as a result of barbed wire. Three of the flying fox species in permanent care occur locally, they are the Spectacled (Pteropus conspicillatus), the Little Red (Pteropus scapulatus), and the Black (Pteropus alecto). The fourth species, the Grey-headed flying fox, occurs down south but we inherited some from Rockhampton Zoo in 2005.

Photo Pete Rowlands: Male Spectacled flying foxes living outside on the high netting.

An important aspect of permanent care is control of breeding. In our experience, males are more likely to come into care through trauma than females. It is important that the females are not continually sexually harrassed and so a ratio of 1 male to 3 to 6 females is optimal. As we only have the one large flight cage, 'excess' larger adult males generally live outside. They are less vulnerable to predators and able to socialise with visiting bats. They choose to hang during the day immediately outside the large flight cage where they can be with the other bats. This photo was taken while we were doing some work that had disturbed them, and so they had 'walked' out on to the walkway.

Important aspects of flying fox care include

  • Lots of sunshine. Flying foxes love to be in the full sun, fanning themsleves to keep cool. Occasional very high temperatures over 40degrees centigrade can be fatal though - there have been occasions 1500kms to the south where Black and Grey-headed flying foxes have died in large numbers.
  • Varied fruit with apple being the mainstay. When feeding large numbers of bats it is very hard to get bush food for them. We hang as much fruit as possible on S-hooks, rather than chopping it.
  • Protein source. We use full cream milk powder, skim milk powder and Wombaroo high protein formula as our protein sources. We make it into a banana smoothie with honey and water.
  • Blossom from the Myrtacae family is an important part of the megabat diet in the wild, both for the nectar and pollen. The Little Reds are almost exclusively blossom feeders. Melaleuca leucadendron is a big favourite.
  • Leaf browse. There are several species of plants which are very popular with fruit bats for leaf fractionation. It is believed that the leaves are a source of vitamin E and proteins. Lubee Foundation in Florida regularly use kale in the diet they prepare. The popular species we have found for Spectacleds are mulberry, fiddlewood (Citharexylum quadrangulare) and Avicennia mangrove. In captivity ours prefer mulberry leaves but will also eat fiddlewood leaves. Landowners with fiddlewood trees on the Atherton Tablelands have their trees stripped of leaves by Spectacled flying foxes every November. Other carers report captive bats eating lettuce, celery etc though ours never have. It is essential that all species of Australian flying fox have access to green leaves in their diet.
  • Bats for company. These very sociable intelligent animals need their own kind.
  • Opportunities for mental stimulus. Flying foxes get bored in captivity. Dana le Blanc at Lubee has done a lot of work on enrichment for megabats at Lubee. Whole apples on an S-hook for example are better than cut apple in a container as they need to 'work' for it. Bat 'toys' at Amanda Lollar's Batworld in Texas USA are found strewn all over the floor in the mornings. Finding the nectar in blossom is another great activity.
  • Opportunities for physical fitness Bats that cannot fly need to be motivated to climb and move. Our primary motivation to build the new flight cage was as a sanctuary for the permanent care bats. It needed to be large enough to include several trees, as well as the usual ropes and nets, to encourage high levels of physical activity.
Tolga Bat Hospital -Sushi And Bub

Spectacled flying fox babies born in captivity can be readily released to the wild, either through our orphan release program at the colony, or soft release from home. Mothers with babies are usually allowed to live outside the cage so that soft release is an option. It is important to monitor weight and growth of these babies, and pay attention to the nutrition levels of the mother particularly while breast-feeding.

We have occassionally had problems with fur loss / thinnning in babies who are completely dependent on their mother's milk. The fur loss appears at about 2-3 months. These babies are always those living up top in the large flight cage( on their mothers) but not coming down at night to eat with her. Those that do come down are being supplementary-fed by the food we put out, and never have problems. For this reason, we now bring all mothers with young down to the lower cages, and then eventually outside. It is obvious that the nutrition level of the the mothers of pups wih fur loss is not optimal.

Little Red flying foxes are more difficult to release as minimum numbers of orphans or captive-born are necessary to successfully creche. Most years we will only get one or two into care. It is also necessary to have a local Little Red camp to release into.

The Little Reds rarely have their babies at Tolga Scrub, though often visit as soon as the young are flying - this is in about August. However they cannot be relied upon to arrive. For these reasons we have chosen to castrate all the males, a relatively quick and easy surgical operation. We have found it important to provide antibiotic cover post-operatively.
Photo: Flying foxes need lots of sunshine. Here they are enjoying the first sun of the day. Flying foxes ought never to be used in nocturnal exhibits in zoos etc

TUBE-NOSED FRUIT BATS (Nyctimene robinsonii)

We rescue about 6 tube-nosed bats a year from barbed wire fences. In other places they are often brought in from cat-attack. We have had trouble maintaining their body weight in captivity, and found that it is essential to get enough high protein supplement into their diet.

They can be difficult eaters. The 3 that have been in care for some time all display different preferences. An old female will drink 70 mls a night of mango and apple juice with 1 teaspoon of supplement in it, but rarely eat fruit. She manages to drink this from a self-feeder even though tube-nosed tongues are not designed for licking. Another will only eat one fruit for weeks on end, and then stop and not eat anything until you manage to find exactly what it is she wants. The third, a young bat, will eat anything.

Their flight is highly manoeuvrable and they can hover with ease. It is therefore extremely important that they have a full recovery from barbed wire injuries .

Tolga Bat Hospital - Tube-Nosed Bat


We do not have many microbats coming into care, about 15 -20 a year. Most of them are free-tailed bats, Mormopterus loriae and the occasional becarrii. We maintain a small permanent care group of 3 freetails, all of whom came in as young babies. This provides a social group for the short-term stay microbats who come in for care.

Baby fishing bat being fed milk off spoon   Baby fishing bats from a group of 20 that came in with heat stress
teeth   ybst  
Maintaining clean teeth is very important in captive microbats  

Mal, long-eared bat, pulverising mealworm before eating
Above: Yellow-bellied sheathtail bat


Species coming into care include:

Scotorepens greyii Little broad-nosed bat
Nyctophilus bifax Northern long-eared bat
Mormopterus beccari Beccari's freetail bat
Mormopterus sp. loriae? Little northern freetail
Nyctinomus australis White-striped freetail
Myotis adversus Large-footed myotis (fishing bat)
Miniopterus australia Little bentwing bat
Rhinolophus megaphyllus Eastern horseshoe bat
Saccolaimus flaviventris Yellow-bellied sheathtail
Chalinolobus nigrogriseus Hoary-wattled bat


Albino freetail bat   Albino freetail and friend
Fishing bat foot   Yellow-bellied sheathtail foot
Bronte, the Broad-nosed bat   Menelli, the Beccari freetail


Good advice on diets for microbats can be found on the www.batworld.org