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in a web of glass, pinned to the edges of vision

The baby vampire bat is cute.

I'd forgotten how often we saw Magritte

mucha mosaic

The baby vampire bat is cute.

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And I finally managed to find the news story that this picture was attached to again. It's here, but I'm going to slap the text into this post behind the cut, too.

Birth of a Vampire

Vampire bats are found only in Latin America, where people spend a lot of time and effort trying to eradicate them (and killing countless beneficial, non-vampire bats in the process). But bat researchers are working to save a little-known vampire species. They are raising a small, captive colony of white-winged vampires (Diaemus youngii) in the mountain town of Tijeras, New Mexico.

The Associated Press reports that the team recently recorded the first known birth in the United States of a white-winged vampire pup.

Only three of the more than 1,100 species of bats worldwide are vampires. Two of them — the white-winged and hairy-legged (Diphylla ecaudata) vampires — feed only on blood from birds. Both are so rare that very little is known about them.

Ten white-winged vampires were brought to the United States from the Caribbean island of Trinidad, where they faced almost certain death. “They are all being eradicated,” Daniel Abram told The AP, “so our thought was: Now is the time to intervene, to preserve the genetic material, to establish a viable breeding colony and to educate the public.”

Abram, founder of the New Mexico Bat Research Institute, is an alumnus of a 1999 BCI Bat Conservation and Management Workshop.

“We know very little about the white-winged vampire bat in science at all,” he said. Abram hopes to change that by caring for the colony so he and other researchers can study the bats’ social, mating and feeding behavior and vocalization, The AP reports.

The situation for the species there is dire. “In Trinidad, the white-winged vampire bat population … will be extinct in 10 years,” said Bill Schutt, a biology professor at Southampton College of Long Island University in New York who studied the bats for part of his Ph.D. research.

He said the vampires face not only a threat from humans who consider them an agricultural pest, but also extensive habitat destruction as rain forests are cleared to make room from farms and ranches.

Schutt, AP said, returned to Trinidad to catch and import the bats for Abram’s fledgling institute. But getting the bats into the United States proved a serious hurdle. That’s where the expertise of zookeeper and long-time BCI member Susan Barnard of Atlanta, Georgia, came in.

Barnard, founder and director of a nonprofit research organization called Basically Bats, used her experience and worldwide connections to get the vampire bats to New Mexico. “I’ve worked for zoos and I have been shipping bats and reptiles for more than 20 years. So I know the system — the laws and rules and regulations. I was able to get them through all of that stuff,” she told The Associated Press.

Barnard spearheaded negotiations with the government of Trinidad and acquired the needed permits: from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which requires that exotic species be quarantined for six months; from the Florida Game Commission, where the bats would touch down on their migrant flight; and from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, which will monitor the colony yearly.

“It was very tricky,” Abram said. “With vampire bats, they have to have fresh blood every single day or they perish. So we had 36 hours to get them from Trinidad to Albuquerque.”

All the bats survived the trip last August, and one arrived pregnant. On Nov. 11, she gave birth.

For now, a bedroom of Abram’s home is nearly filled with a flight cage and a smaller enclosure that holds the youngest bat, her mother, and another small female. Two humidifiers keep the bats feeling tropical, and a sliding glass door opens into a chicken coop.

The chickens themselves are a rescue mission. Donated from an Albuquerque egg farm, they had never seen the light of day before their debut as bat food. The adult bats weigh under 40 grams, so the 2-pound chickens don’t seem to mind much. When the bats feed, “it’s dark, so they are naturally sleeping. Most of the time the blood gets taken from the toes and the chickens don’t really feel it,” Abram said.

The bats sneak up on the chickens and make a small incision by biting them, then lap up the pooling blood with their grooved tongues. They sometimes make a sound like that of baby chicks, which seems to calm the birds.

To keep the chickens healthy, Abram makes sure that no chicken is bat dinner more than once a week.
  • Vampire bats are found only in Latin America, where people spend a lot of time and effort trying to eradicate them (and killing countless beneficial, non-vampire bats in the process).

    *hangs head in shame*

    I thought of you this morning. I was getting ready to come to work and I was watching the news. There's this new campaign on TV sponsored by Televisa (one of our major TV networks) about saving bats. I'm a little more informed now. We have 139 breeds (or is it species?) of bats, most of them the insect eating kind.

    I really hope the campaign is successful, especially since it's the first one of its kind that I see. It's always the save the whales and dolphins... Although I think 6:30 am is not exactly the best time to reach the masses... Granted we are awake, but not many brains are fully functional at that time. Mine runs on "automatic" until around 8:30 am. *blush*
    • Most of the bats in North America are down in Mexico: 139 species wouldn't surprise me at all. I've done some research lately and discovered that there aren't any bat species that are native to my area, which is a pity, because I would love to set up a little bat house in the back yard and watch them come and go.
      Something else I stumbled across was that in Brazil, they're discovering that a big problem with efforts to re-plant the rain forest is not having bats flapping around eating fruit and then leaving seeds around. So, they're building big cinderblock bat houses so as to help the bats recolonize areas that they're trying to make into rainforest again. I think that's really interesting.
      And hey- you get TOLD over and over and over that they're vampire bats, it's not like you're going to corner one and interrogate him closely about it. So you shouldn't feel shame about going with it.
      • Our local School District does a lot of bat education in primary school. We talk a lot about incectavore bats and how bats in general are good for the ecosystem. Skyemage even taught a class of primary kids how to make bat houses out of supplies you can find around the home.

        It's nice to know someone is trying to save endangered bats. I always thought the ones in the Small Mammal house at the zoo were terribly cute.
  • This is truly fabulous and I'm so thrilled you shared it with me. The little bat is still one of the most incredible bat pictures I've ever seen.

    Thank you for making my Mother's Day.

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