Large numbers of flying foxes were found dead in Casino after three scorching hot days. WIRES took to the streets to care for the orphaned baby bats.
Large numbers of flying foxes were found dead in Casino after three scorching hot days. WIRES took to the streets to care for the orphaned baby bats. Marc Stapelberg

Holy bat-astrophe! Another hot weekend looms

WILDLIFE carers working around the clock to save hundreds of orphaned baby bats are preparing for more problems with heat this weekend, with the temperature predicted to reach almost 40 degrees at Casino.

It is estimated as many as 5000 black and grey headed bats died along the banks of the Richmond River as a result of the scorching conditions last Saturday, which reached a record 44.1 degrees at Casino, according to figures from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Northern Rivers WIRES critical incident co-ordinator Renata Phelps said wildlife groups had been preparing for a hot weekend, but it was unclear how many bats remained in the colony and how high the temperature would go.

Ms Phelps said preparations included co-ordinating with the Rural Fire Service, which would spray the bat colonies with water again, if and when needed.

However, she stressed this would happen only if necessary because "preventative" spraying could create more stress for bats.

"Anything that disturbs or stresses the bats makes them fly so they're expending more energy in the hot weather flying, which speeds up the onset of heat stroke," she said.

As for the hundreds of orphaned bats, Ms Phelps said wildlife groups across the country, including in Queensland, South Australia and the ACT, had been working hard to relocate and rehabilitate the baby bats, known as "pups".

She said wildlife carers had been working "around the clock" with pups regularly being brought in to "bat central" - a wildlife carer's property at Caniaba - and the healthier ones redistributed to carer properties elsewhere.

"Most of us haven't slept more than a couple of hours since Saturday and we're mobilising as many volunteers as we can, both vaccinated and unvaccinated," Ms Phelps said.

"There's people here who are doing load after load of washing and folding the bats' linen, there's people bringing meals to us, people washing up the dishes, people helping the vaccinated bat handlers.

"The bat hand-lers are basically just sitting giving fluids to the little bats and there's so many bats that they are just doing that around the clock."

Ms Phelps said most of the bats being brought in, aged one and four weeks, would need to be bottle-fed four to five times a day until they were at least 10 weeks.

Anyone wanting to help the bats can donate online at www.wires.org.au or phone 8977 3396. Donations should specify for the Casino bats.


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