Taronga’s newest nocturnal animals have arrived in the brand new exhibit – just in time for Halloween!
The Zoo is lucky enough to have five of these unusual creatures in our care, having gathered the group from different zoos and wildlife centres around Australia. Three females are on display at present, while the others are in quarantine at Taronga’s Wildlife Hospital.
Keepers Paul Davies and Robert Dockerill have been working on the exhibit for the past few months, finding just the right vines for the bats to roost on and taking care of every detail so that the exhibit transports visitors into the dead of the night to glimpse these astounding flying mammals.
As Ghost Bats spend most of their time in the darkness of caves and only come out at night to feed, Paul has divided their exhibit in two. On one side, there’s a larger area with a complicated network of branches that allows the bats to swoop swiftly to find their food in the simulated moonlight, while the second area is slightly smaller, representing a cosy cave where the bats can roost.
As it’s been three years since Ghost Bats were on display at Taronga Zoo, Paul wants to make sure that visitors can see the bats when they come to the Australian Nightlife Exhibit. All of the roosting areas are visible to visitors, and the bats have the opportunity to move around the different vines and pick their favourite spots.
The exhibit is positioned at the very end of the exhibit, so by the time that you walk around to see the Ghost Bats, your eyes will have adjusted to the darkened enclosure. Because their eyes are extremely sensitive to light, almost every aspect of the enclosure is painted black, and the only sources of light are the cave’s red heat lamp to keep them warm and the soft lighting which has been specially positioned to illuminate the bats just as the moon would.
When you’re looking for the bats themselves, you’ll see that they are a very pale colour. Their name comes from the beautiful ‘ghost-like’ appearance of their wings when they are reflected in the moonlight.
If you’re lucky, you’ll see them swoop through the exhibit, and may also catch a sight of their small, horned face, and two large ears on top of their head. Perhaps you’ll even hear their high-pitched call, which is a loud sound created by the bats as they vocalise through their nostrils.
Ghost Bats are Australia’s only carnivorous bats, and are the largest carnivorous bats in the world. They are difficult to spot in the wild, as these endangered creatures often live in complete darkness, and hideaway in remote caves.
Since the closure and demolition of many old mines, Ghost Bats have found their habitats diminishing, so it is very important that we look after their habitats in order for them to keep up healthy populations around the country.