New Zealand is truly and deeply great, and I’m also missing the wildlife in Australia a whole lot. So here’s a little more about my visit to the bat clinic (I tore myself away from there two days ago to fly to Wellington), since some of you had questions and you’ve all probably had enough of the wombats (as if that’s even possible)!
Shoalhaven Bat Clinic (check out their Facebook page for lots of great video) rescues and rehabilitates grey-headed flying foxes. These furry, intelligent mammals get caught in barbed wire, hit by cars, shot at, stressed by “extreme heat events,” electrocuted by power lines, and burned by brush fire. They’re native to Australia, and as everywhere, habitat loss is a big problem there. Here are some highlights from my 48 hours:
Walking into a fenced-in aviary and standing gob-smacked as about twenty bats hung upside down above me. They spend their entire lives upside down (except when flying and relieving themselves). They smell kind of musky.
Watching them nibble their fruit salads (apples, pears, and grapes painstakingly diced by volunteers every morning).
Touching a bat’s velvety, crepe-papery wing.
Observing a bat autopsy (cause of death was determined to be blunt trauma to chest).
Marveling at their wings, which are kind of like built-in blankets because they wrap themselves in them. Their wings “have hands in them” because their fingers support the wing membrane. Lookit:
Staring at little delicate bat fingers.
Day-tripping to an enchanted beach with the clinic manager, Janine:
Meeting other rescued creatures who were just the teeniest-tiniest, baby-est things: feathertail possums, brushtail possums, and feather gliders.
Gerry Hawkins, a total powerhouse, runs the clinic on her own property. I stayed in a little in-law type apartment within her home. I had my own little French-press coffee maker and drank a lot of coffee. And just outside my room was a 75-year-old cockatoo, Charlie, who would repeat “hello, darling” after you. He would also spread his wings and dance to the Sesame Street song “Sing a Song” (his favorite since 1969).
Charlie may live until he’s 100. I hope Gerry does, too. She’s amazing.