Darren and I had a call from Bat Conservation and Rescue (of which we are members) last week to say we were the closest rescuer available for a fruitbat stuck in a cocos palm near Boonah, and being constantly attacked by noisy miners and other birds.
I asked how tall the tree was and it sounded a bit out of reach, so I first rang RSPCA to see if they had equipment to get up there, and they promised to check and get back to me if they had something available that could be taken to Mount Alford (near Boonah) in a reasonable time.
I then called Council and was told that yes they did have suitable equipment but could not let any of their staff handle a bat because they hadn’t been vaccinated for rabies (fruitbats occasionally carry lyssa virus, which is related to rabies, and there have been two known deaths of people bitten while handling them). I said my son and I have both been vaccinated but I was told they could not – for public liability reasons – allow us to climb their ladders or ride in a crane etc.
So, Darren and I headed over with our inadequate ladder, plus protective sleeves for our arms, a box to put the bat in (lined with a comfy bit of fabric), and some apple and honey, as we were told he had been in the tree for several days with nothing to eat.
We arrived, and saw the bat on the frond – no longer entangled in the clump of green fruit. He showed no sign of injury, and when Darren mounted the ladder he energetically climbed higher. He was a black flying fox, not full size, so we wondered if perhaps he was just confused and famished. We couldn’t think of any reasonably safe way of reaching him, so decided to leave him with some food overnight and hope that with restored strength he might fly off with his comrades if they visited the property that night. Through our binoculars, we examined him for any sign of injury to the wing.
When Darren mounted the ladder again, the young bat suddenly discovered he could still fly and made an impressive wide arc to a leopard tree. We left apple and honey in a fork of the leopard tree, but before we left he had moved to an adjacent cocos palm, considerably higher than the original one.
Next day I had meeting to attend in the opposite direction, and the owner was headin g off for a few days, so I called Heike from Destiny Eco Cottage and Wendy Dunn of Fassifern Naturalists, and they both made the effort to head over and check out the trees. The bat was gone, hopefully back with his companions in a near-by colony.
Cocos palms are often a problem for bats and other wildlife, and the owner of the house is going to get rid of hers. They can be replaced by the native bangalow palms.