Bats are seen by many as scary, disgusting, winged beasts whose only intent is to either suck the life-giving blood from your body or infect you with rabies. But in Weatherford, Texas there exists a place where bats are seen as “clean, gentle, and intelligent” creatures. That place is called Bat World, and it’s currently the only accredited bat sanctuary in the world. The founder, Amanda Lollar, had a vision to offer humane treatment and respect for bats, both in the wild and in captivity. “Many of the bats in our care have lived terrible lives before coming to us and we provide the security and privacy they need to recuperate from their previous existence,” Lollar said. Bat World actively works with zoos, researchers, and animal shelters to offer an alternative to death.
Established in 1994, Bat World has seen some very interesting rescues and encountered some truly heartbreaking situations in the many rescues they have facilitated. One particular rescue has remained a staple in the organizations history, reinforcing why they do what they do. That little bat is named Peek-a-boo and she managed to teach the already-seasoned staff a thing or two about the bond between animal and human.
When Peek-a-boo arrived at Bat World she was just barely one month old and had already seen a lifetime of torment. Found in a roadside attraction with her elderly mother, the two were rescued with two dozen other fruit bats in 2009, all of which were housed in deplorable conditions. The stress of the encounter caused Peek-a-boo’s mother to abandon her, leaving her care up to the staff at Bat World.
Hand-raised with an orphaned Carollia bat, Edward, the two became inseparable despite their obvious size differences. The two flourished under the watchful eye of the trained staff, until the day came they would be introduced to the flight cage to mingle with other rescued bats. When Peek-a-boo began leaving the other bats to fly to the staff members as they entered to bring in the daily feedings, a fear arose that she had imprinted on her caretakers. It just wasn’t normal for the bats to want to ride on the humans as they took care of the daily chores within the enclosure; but as new volunteers began to enter the picture, “it became crystal clear that imprinting had nothing at all to do with it. Peekaboo simply has more personality than one bat can contain. She apparently believes every human was created entirely for her personal enjoyment, to do with as she pleases.” To this day Peek-a-boo has a strong affection for ponytails.
“We believe that great animal rescue organizations are judged not just by the scale of the work that they do, but by the impact that work has on the lives of the animals they seek to serve,” Lollar said. Each year Bat World rescues hundreds of bats like Peek-a-boo, who would likely otherwise die. A volunteer-based organization, Bat World is sustained by public donations. Their website is www.batworld.org. You can also visit their Facebook page if you would like to learn how to become a volunteer, sponsor a bat at the sanctuary, or need help with a bat rescue.