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We have world-class facilities for the bats, making work for the volunteer as safe and efficient as possible, and the life of the bats in out care as stress-free as possible:

  • A very smart airconditioned hospital built in 1998 - see photo opposite
  • The Battery, a large flight cage for megabats built in 2003.
  • A large 8 metre diametre octagonal microbat cage built in 2004.
  • An new 8 metre by 4 metre cage for tick paralysis season, built in 2005.
  • An outdoor high horizontal netting structure for flying foxes living outside the cage, built in 2006.
  • The release cage out at Tolga Scrub in 2007
  • The Visitor Centre in 2009. Glass viewing panels put into microbat and tick season cages.
  • A new internal cage in the Battery for Little Reds to feed separately to the larger flying fox species, in 2009

THE BAT HOSPITAL
The hospital has 20 individual hanging cages,16 lying cages,and an indoor 2 metre by 1 metre cage. Tick-paralysed bats progress through these cages, before going outside.

The hospital itself is rarely used outside of tick season. Injured bats may spend a night in there so we can monitor them more easily, but move to the outside cage as soon as possible. The main exception are the very sick dehydrated bats that sometimes come in off barbed wire fences.

Tolga Bat Hospital - Hospital Surgery

THE MEGABAT FLIGHT CAGE or THE BATTERY


 

The flight cage for flying foxes was built largely with money gifted by Perpetual Trustees in Australia. It is 12 metres wide, 14.5 metres long, 3 metres high at the sides and 6 metres high in the middle. There are no internal posts. It has a waterproof cover over 4.5 metres at one end where the internal cages are located. It is lined externally with galvanised wire mesh 25mm by 12mm, and internally with tuna netting.

One section of the roof with the waterproof cover has a shadecloth cover and sprinkler system. The bats surprisingly spend most ofl their time under the plastic.

The netting gives the bats a soft landing, protecting their wings from the harshness of the wire mesh. 2 metre-wide double doors are located at each end. There is a 'human area' 4.5 metres by 4 metres between the 2 internal cages with a sink, refrigerator and treatment area.

While it is possible to catch the bats in the 6 metre enclosure, it is easier to wait until they come down for food. We have a rope attached to a hatch door that extends up to the house. When pulled, it closes the hatch door, trapping all those who are down feeding. Of course you do not always catch the particular bat you want! We have a 4.2 metre ladder to reach bats up top if necessary. We can usually do this relatively easily, unless the bats are able to fly. Bats that need ongoing care are kept down below in the internal cages. There are 'bedrooms' within the internal cages that allow bats in care to socialise and not 'escape' up top.

The main flight area of the cage has a thick bed of mulch and 6 trees. Some of the trees are food trees and some have been chosen for their robust nature. It has proved very difficult to establish the trees as each year we have hundreds of orphans in there for a few months of each year.

Tolga Bat Hospital -Small Internal Cage With Orphans  

Tolga Bat Hospital -Large Internal Cage

The resident bats come down to the internal cages for food - they are 4.5 metres by 3 metres, and 4.5 metres by 1.5 metres. They are very easy to clean, but still require a good srcub or pressure clean once a week. The floor area is heat-welded 2 mm thick polypropylene sheeting that slopes down to a gutter, taking the waste to a pumpwell, from which it is then pumped to a septic tank with soakage trenches. Sand has been compacted underneath the floor area to establish the slope.

Photos: The internal cages have heat-welded polypropylene floors.

 

Tolga Bat Hospital - Bat Cage Nov 03   Tolga Bat Hospital - Bat Cage April 05   Tolga Bat Hospital -Bat Cage March 06
NOV 03   APRIL 05   MARCH 06

We have been very pleased with the progress of the gardens established around the cages.

Tolga Bat Hospital - Heater

  little
It can get quite cold in winter in the outside cage. We have 2 infrared heaters, one 800 watt and one 2400 watt. The bats really enjoy the heat and huddle around them.   Internal cage built in 2009 for the Little Red flying-foxes. We like to feed them seaparately as their dietary requirements are different. There is a hatch on the side that allows only small bats into the cage. The cage has a heat-welded floor that drains into the same pumpwell as all the other cages.



THE MICROBAT FLIGHT CAGE or SYNCHRONICITY CAGE

The new flight cage for microbats has been built largely with money gifted by the Synchronicity Foundation in the United Kingdom. It is an 8 metre octagon with 3 metre sides and 3 -3.5 metres high. A 'human area' 3 metres by 2 metres allows entry through 2 doors into the octagon. The cage is lined externally with 5mm by 5 mmm wire mesh, and internally with 6mm by 6mm plastic mesh on the sides, and a very small weave netting on the ceiling. The entire roof is covered with solarshield plastic. The floor is covered with black weedmat to prevent grass growing through and soil coming up, and allow any rain to drain away. The weedmat is covered with a white shadecloth so that it is easy to see any grounded bats. Roost areas are set up around the central pole and on the octagon side that backs onto the human area (white bench in photo top left). Two fluoro lights, one black and one white are installed on mains electricity above the central roosting area.

We have used the cage now very successfully for 2 years. In that time a number of small tube-nosed fruitbats (55gms) have come into care, and this cage has worked wonderfully for them as well. We have now established a release hatch in the side wall of the cage. The black light attracts a lot of insects into the cage. It has also attracted the world's largest moth to lthe cage, and we have now found several on the outside wall, one female unfortunately even laying her eggs there. The only problem has been the harshness of the white shadecloth as it is quite abrasive for those bats that crash land repeatedly.

Tolga Bat Hospital -
Tolga Bat Hospital - Tube Nose Cage 2
Photo: Inside the microbat cage, central roosting area. Photo: View of microbat cage from one side
Tolga Bat Hospital - Tube Nose Cage 3
Tolga Bat Hospital - Tube Nose Cage 4
Photo: View of microbat cage from another side Photo: Detail of floor to sides


THE TICK PARALYSIS CAGE or DAF CAGE

Daf cage

 

tcage09

Photos taken 2006 and 2009 respectively. Note additions for Visitor Centre - the interpretive sign and glass viewing panel.

This cage was built mainly with monies gifted by the Dorothy Ann Foundation in USA. It is 4 metres wide, and its 8 metre length is divided into 3 sections. Two of the sections are of equal size 3.5metres by 4 metres. One is used for orphans when they first leave the nursery in the house, and the other for adults who have just left the hospital having survived tick paralysis. The narrow middle section is used as a release area.

This cage has a concrete floor that slopes towards a gutter that eventually drains by gravity to the pumpwell down in the Mega Flight cage. It has a ceiling of prawn netting, with a space of about 25cms to the wire mesh roof. The wire mesh is 25mm by12mm, the same as used in the Mega Flight cage. The DAF cage is partly covered by an attractive green sail, giving the bats and volunteers protection from too much sun and rain.

Attached to the cage area is 'the bat shed', a human area for keeping cleaning equipment and other bat "stuff".

Below: View looking up towards tick cage 2009.

bench

OUTDOOR HIGH NETTING

Three stainless steel cables (3mm thick) have been attached from the top of the Mega Flight cage to a high point on the DAF cage. They have been tensioned sufficiently to rig taut tuna netting between the cables. The netting is interrupted in places by trees, so that the bats have a high level 'walk-way' between cages and trees. As the trees grow, we will trim back the netting. This allows us to keep a lot of the permanent-care larger males outside the Mega Flight cage.

It is difficult to see the black netting in this photo.

Tolga Bat Hospital - Netting



THE RELEASE CAGE

The release cage is out at Tolga Scrub, in a part of the camp occupied by the wild mothers and babies. This allows our orphans to join the wild pups at night and learn with them. During the day, at least until the end of March, they are essentially social misfits, as everyone their own age has a mother, and weighs probably about 100gms less. They have a lot to learn about bush food, the social structure of the colony, changes in weather, predators etc, as well as gaining the strength and endurance to fly out increasing distances.

We have 2 large dog crates that we winch up into the canopy; the smaller cage can comfortably fit about 10 bats, and the larger one 15. We did not want the bats coming down to a ground-level cage for support feeding, as we felt that this was not safe at Tolga. Nor did we think it was good for the bats to learn that coming low was safe.

We begin to take the orphans out in early January. The first bats to go out are usually about 450gms and 140mm forearm. We leave the orphans inside the cages for 3 days, winching the cage down each day to feed them. They very quickly get used to the cage going up and down. Then on the fourth day we leave the cage door open when we winch the cage back up. We prefer if they just come out in their own time during the evening rather than physically putting them out. The next morning, we bring the next lot of bats out.

We try to minimise the time when there is no one in the cage. We believe that by continually having bats in the cage, there is a greater likelihood of the others returning. This is really the crux of the whole release program. All we can do is try to teach the orphans that coming back to the cage for food is in their best interests. The rest is up to them.

 
Photo: Orphans waiting for us to put the food out.   Photo: The cage laden with food and ready to be winched back up.

Once we have about 50 orphans out at the release site, we shorten the time in the cage to 2 days. We usually take milk out in the mornings, and are able to hang the self-feeders on the verandah of the cages for the those living free. We can do this without winching the cage down by using a long pole with a hook on the end. We don't give the bats inside the cage milk as we don't want to winch the cage up and down twice a day! They usually have enough food from the previous night to have some left for morning.

We follow this procedure until all the bats are out at the release site and living free. The last bats to go out are usually a little smaller than the first, weights down to 350gms and forearms down to 135mm. We continue to feed daily for at least 6 weeks after the last lot of orphans go out. This is well into our wet season, and so the the rate at which we begin to cut back the food varies with the weather. The more cyclones, the more food goes out. The wild babies have about 3 months of breast-feeding after they learn to fly, so we use this as the guide. We like to support feed for 3 to 4 months, though at 4 months it'll be down to once a week.

Initially, the bats are always desperate for food when we go out. If we go out any later than 4pm, it is hard to put the food out as we are mobbed by them. So we go out 2-3pm if possible. That way a few may be on the cage when we get there, and another 50-100 might fly down while the cage is down and having the food put on it. The rest fly on to the cage once it has been winched back up. We hope that by being fed early, they will be ready to fly out with the wild bats on dusk, and not still be on the cage eating.

The success of the release is evident by the numbers of orphans from previous years returning to the cage. They have obviously survived that first year in the wild. We scan the bats coming to the release cage regularly, and if we can get close enough can identify these older individuals. Its very satisfying to be able to let the carers who reared them, know of their return.

Another aspect of release is being able to monitor the orphans as they return to the wild. A small number present with injuries and come back to the hospital - some of these go back out again, others are held over for rehabilitation and are released from home. Each year we have wild babies with injuries come down to the cage for food - these are brought home as well for treatment. By April though, most orphans remain up in the trees until we winch the cage back up, and so we cannot monitor or scan them so easily. We have used this method since 1999. It works well for us and the bats. If the colony moves, the whole release cage set-up can be moved. We would need to concrete in another post for the winch, and find a suitable tree for the pulley.

 


 

WORMFARMS

 
  wormfarm   worms  
  There are 4 wormfarms that process the waste from the flying foxes. The castings (worm poo) are then put onto the vegetable garden.