Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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On the 7th of November, an orphaned baby Flying Fox called ‘Duruga’ was brought into the Taronga Wildlife Hospital and into my life. I became his ‘mother’.

Daruga was found in the early morning on the ground in a park in Camperdown, clinging to his dead mother. She had been electrocuted during the night. His name ‘Duruga’ means ‘Falling Star’ in the local Cammeral language. This name is very apt, as he has become my little star. 

I first saw him wrapped in a towel, a tiny black fuzzy creature wrapped in his ‘overcoat’ of wings, with big dark black shiny eyes – the whole of his body fit in my palm.  

The first night was pretty sleepless, with both of us getting used to each other. 

Click on the above image for the gallery

Becoming Daruga's mother was a big change in my life – bringing sleepless nights, baby equipment and a whole lot of love! My unit was taken over with Durugas ‘stuff’– a heat pack, a special petpack to carry him in,, thermometer, baby bottle and teat, scales, steriliser, milk formula, clothes racks and towels, towels and more towels!

Initially he slept wrapped up on a rolled towel ‘mumma’ to help him feel secure.  Every four hours – even in the middle of the night  I needed to warm his milk, feed him a tiny bottle, help him go to the toilet and give him a sponge bath. 

During the day I take him to work with me, and he hangs from my shirt, playing, flapping, eating, and tucking his head into my armpit to go to sleep.  He sleeps hanging from one foot, with the other leg tucked against his body, tightly wrapped up in his wings.

After the first month he became more active, moving off his ‘mumma’ onto a clothes airier covered in towels. He started to realise he had wings, opening them and flapping them enthusiastically for about ten seconds at a time. He found folding his wings back up more difficult, often falling asleep with them half open, exhausted from the effort!

Duruga rests in Tegan's hand
Durga rests in Tegan's hand

He also learned how to go to the toilet by himself, turning himself upside down (right way up for humans!) and giving a little shake. 

After six weeks he started to be weaned, which involved reducing his bottles and introducing him to tiny bits of softened apple. He soon moved onto other fruits and native flowers. It was exciting to see him react to all the different flavours – he loved strawberries, honey dew melon and eucalypt blossoms. 


On Christmas Day I gave him a mango which proved to be his absolute favourite food! He was so excited he launched face first into it, guzzling as much as he could. He covered his whole face and head in sticky mango juice in the process! 

Christmas Day was also a big day for him – he learnt to fly! Like a baby taking his first steps he was pretty shaky at first, launching himself off the clothes rack onto me, usually landing on my calves and scrambling up me. Now he flies all the time, so my house has been rearranged – the reverse of human ‘toddler’ proofing – I have had to put all the breakables on the ground! 

My favourite time with him is first thing in the morning – when I wake him up and he chatters to me. I also love our ‘quiet times’ when I brush him softly with a tooth brush and stroke his face until he falls asleep.

On January 16th he will go to flying fox ‘finishing school’ were he will spend a month living with other orphaned Flying Foxes and learn how to be a bat.. He will them be released into the wild to help boost populations. 

Keeper Tegan with her bat
Keeper Tegan with her bat

I am excited to think of him out in the wild, flying long distances and eating fruits and flowers. He will help to cross pollinate and spread seeds through our rainforests. 

Due to habitat destruction Flying Foxes are increasingly coming into our cities, into our parks and gardens looking for food. So, even though people feel like they are seeing more and more Flying Foxes, the population is declining. In fact, they’re actually listed as ‘vulnerable’ to extinction. 

Once in our cities Flying Foxes come into conflict with people, being electrocuted on power lines, tangled in fruit tree netting (the netting should be stretched tight over a frame to prevent entanglement) and being shot by farmers as they eat their crops. 

I hope that when people look up and see Daruga and his friends flying overhead they will realise that they are intelligent, inquisitive mammals who play an important role in our eco system. 

2011 is the ‘international year of the bat’ to raise awareness of these wonderful creatures. They beautiful animals with an undeservedly bad reputation. 

- Tegan, Taronga Zoo Keeper

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