By Mike Jones
These tiny baby bats have been swaddled up like burritos after being rejected by their mum and taken in by a zoo keeper.
The Egyptian Fruit bat babies were being hand-reared by humans after they were abandoned by their mums at Cotswold Wildlife Park.
Natalie Horner, Deputy Section Head of Primates at the zoo, took the vulnerable youngsters under her wing when they were just four weeks old and weighed just forty grams.
She became their surrogate mum, giving the bats – affectionately called Bruce and Wayne – around the clock care.
She said: “A couple of days after we moved all of the bats into temporary holdings, while we refurbished the bat house, we saw both babies roosting by themselves.
“Mother bats often ‘park’ their babies to give themselves a break. So we left them for a day, in the hope their mums would come and collect them again, as the chances of the babies surviving without a feed and warmth are very slim.”
Their mums sadly never returned and the bats, who were unable to maintain their own body temperature, were kept in incubators under the watchful eye of Natalie.
The kind-hearted keeper also swaddled the babies up like burritos in a bid to recreate their mum’s cuddles.
She said: “I had to feed the babies every three hours in the early days. They were given milk as well as mashed fruit.
“The first feed of the day was at six o’clock in the morning and the last feed was at midnight.
“One of the things I’ll never forget was wrapping the babies in their blankets for feed times.
“Wrapping them up gave them comfort as their mother would wrap her wings around them to keep them safe.
“As soon as they finished their feed they would fall asleep wrapped in their blankets. It really melted my heart.”
As they continued to grow, and in order for their wings to developed properly, Natalie encouraged the bats to fly.
She said: “When they were around ten weeks old we began flying lessons. This was great fun.
“Bats instinctively know how to fly so they just needed a little bit of encouragement. I would hang them from my finger and gently bob them up and down to encourage them to wing beat.
“I hung towels and sheets on the walls of my spare room to give plenty of roosting opportunities.
“The first lesson went as expected – they flapped their wings and flopped straight on the floor.
“They quickly recovered though and it didn’t take long at all for their muscles to strengthen and for them to fly from one side of the room to the other.
“From then we had nightly flying lessons. As soon as they were able to fly comfortably around my spare room they were upgraded to their own enclosure at the Park before being reintroduced to the colony.”
When the bats were six months old they were successfully reintroduced to the rest of the colony.
Natalie added: “It was such a proud moment for me and such a happy ending to what had been four amazing months.
“To see the babies back with their family made all the hard work worth it. I’m so happy for them to be back where they belong.”