”Eye of newt & toe of frog, Wool of bat & tongue of dog, Adder's fork & blind worm's sting, Lizard's leg & owlet's wing, For charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell~broth boil & bubble" ~ Macbeth.
I have a problem with Hendra. It's carried by bats & I'm actually very fond of bats. Not that I used to be, mind. They were black & scary with spiky nobs on their joints & I, who don't like small fragile things, used to be pretty freaked at having one anywhere in my vicinity.
I do actually feel the same way about birds. They are so small, so light, so very, very fragile. Not that bats tend to hang round me. They prefer the gum blossom & fruit trees but I once got to know a bat very well indeed & the hysteria surrounding Hendra now just makes me very sad. I do understand people come first but the mindless hatred is very hard for me to understand.
It was winter, just as it is now. We had had days of bitter westerlies & it was so cold even my hardy children had confined themselves to the house. We were all going a little stir crazy but as I loaded my Liddy in the car to go pick up the boys from school she insisted she could hear something crying. We took a short walk & found a tiny bat clinging desperately to a very thin sapling that look set to snap in two at any moment under the small weight of the bat.
I knew nothing about bats except that their mamas carry them on their backs & that this one looked too young to be without his mama, so I very firmly insisted it be left where it was because the chances were that the mama was on her way back for her baby & it is best not to interfere in nature if at all possible.
My horde was fascinated & kept taking surreptitious peeks to see if mama bat had returned to claim her baby yet. As dusk fell & the thermometer plummeted with no mama bat in sight & the thin wails of bubs carrying all too clearly on the icy air my children became frantic. It was so small, so helpless & it was a going to freeze to death if I didn't do something. Naturally it would have to be I to do that something.
Rather tentatively I went to investigate. Black. Spikes. I shuddered while huge black eyes regarded me trustfully. It did not, as I was rather hoping, take fright & fly away. As I was to learn, it was far too young to do anything of the sort. Unhappily I gathered it up in my hands to return to my clamouring children & learnt the most surprising thing about bats; their skin is as soft & delicate as silk! Tacitly it was gorgeous to touch. At that point some of my fear dissipated.
The second thing I quickly learnt is that bats are just as smoochily cuddly as cats & are very, very companionable. Our little friend was only really happy being cuddled & carried around so I grabbed an old cloth nappy [diaper if you're American] & he snuggled while I dragged out the phone book & began the convoluted process of finding someone in the wildlife business who knew something about bats & was prepared to send someone out in the morning to pick up our guest. I did eventually get onto: W.I.R.E.S ~ who were not as well organised back in the day. From them I learnt our friend was very young indeed & that young bats never leave their mother for any reason. Without help he would most certainly die.
By then the boats had already stopped running for the night so I made inquiries as to how I should feed our guest. Next problem; we did not own an eye dropper. Not even one off a food die bottle or old ink dropper. Nothing. I mashed up some fruit as instructed & considered my problem. Now my Poppy was a cattleman; dairy to be exact, & if you have ever been on a dairy farm when the poddy calves are being weaned you will know it's a very earthy process. I stuck my fingers in the juicy pulp & the bat grasped one firmly & sucked as if sucking the life out of a teat. Obviously starving! My children were charmed & begged for their turn. Jossie asserted his right as eldest & I duly instructed him in how to encourage the bat to latch on. Shrieks of horror ensued as Joss realised it was easier to get a bat to latch on than it was to get one to disengage!
I spent most of that night cuddling a bat that became distraught every time he was pegged in his nappy to the indoor line. He was only really happy being held & was embarrassingly affectionate. They would make wonderful pets! However it is not wise to domesticate wild things & so the first boat next morning I took our friend to the mainland to be collected by the W.I.R.E.S people for rehabilitation.
The thing is animals are not responsible for us; we are responsible for them. It is our duty to find ways of managing our wildlife to our mutual benefit & to go on a killing frenzy out of fear seems to me a very defeatist attitude. Bats have their place in the ecology of things, helping pollinate all sorts of things that need pollinating, & quite frankly, given we are responsible for the Fall & the consequent judgement on all creation, the very least we can do in compensation is not give way to knee~jerk reactions when problems arise. Who knows what sort of damage a massive cull of bats would do to our already fragile natural environment.