Baby fruit bat's lucky save

Tiny Jemma, the grey-headed flying fox, is nursed by Lismore veterinarian Jemma Daniels, who performed an emergency Caesarean to deliver the baby fruit bat.
Tiny Jemma, the grey-headed flying fox, is nursed by Lismore veterinarian Jemma Daniels, who performed an emergency Caesarean to deliver the baby fruit bat. JAY CRONAN

BABY fruit bat ‘Jemma’ owes her life to three people who cared enough to save her.

The first on the scene was Corndale resident Richard Higgs, who called WIRES – the NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service – when he discovered Jemma’s mother hanging on a barbed wire fence.

WIRES bat co-ordinator Lib Ruytenberg freed the mother from the fence knowing that her injuries were too extensive to save her life.

But Ms Ruytenberg noticed the grey-headed flying fox was heavily pregnant and realised that her baby had a fighting chance.

So, Ms Ruytenberg took the mother to the Lismore Central Veterinary Hospital.

Vet Jemma Daniels was on hand to perform her second Caesarean section delivery on a bat in as many weeks.

Ms Ruytenberg, who is caring for the little bat around the clock, named her after the vet who saved her life.

Dr Daniels said she was touched.

“It was very cute and I was very touched,” she said.

“I felt very good about saving her. It really was pleasing and rewarding.”

Dr Daniels said the previous Caesarean was unsuccessful because the baby bat had died before the birth was complete.

But she said little Jemma was a fighter.

“She’s definitely a fighter. She was opening her eyes and breathing from the get-go,” she said.

Ms Ruytenberg said the grey-headed flying fox was listed under the Threatened Species Act as vulnerable to extinction, which in turn meant rainforest habitats were also threatened.

“They’re called a ‘keystone’ species, so if they disappear, then everything else disappears,” Ms Ruytenberg said. “They’re pollinators and seed dispersers of our rainforest trees.

“They fly out up to 30km from colonies to feed mostly on nectar and blossom from eucalypts and melaleucas and fruit like figs.

“Some of those trees are only receptive to pollination at night, so birds and bees can’t do that.”

Ms Ruytenberg said property owners should avoid using barbed wire unless it was absolutely necessary.

If it is necessary people can help protect flying foxes by covering the top strand of the wire up to a couple of metres from feed trees with a piece of poly piping.

“And if you do find a flying fox stuck in wire, check to see whether it is pregnant beca-use the baby can be saved,” she said.

Baby Jemma will stay in care for up to four months before being released to a colony.

But first she will attend flying fox crèche to learn social skills once she can fly, which is by 10 weeks.

The Northern Rivers number for WIRES is 6628 1898.

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