Having your children ‘flee the nest’ has been redefined after a keeper at Cotswold Wildlife Park took on the parental duties of two abandoned baby Egyptian Fruit Bats.
The bats – named Bruce and Wayne – were found roosting by themselves in the Burford park’s Bat House.
Without food or the warmth of their mothers chances of survival were slim, so deputy section head of primates at the park, Natalie Horner, took the babies, known as pups, home and became surrogate mother to the pair.
Ms Horner, who described the unexpected job as ‘heart-melting’, provided round-the-clock care and even gave them flying lessons in her spare bedroom to make sure their wings developed properly.
At four to six weeks old, the bats weighed just 40 grams and were unable to maintain their own body temperature so had to be kept in an incubator for two weeks and monitored closely.
Hand-rearing the tiny winged-mammals was no mean feat for Ms Horner, as she had to invest a lot of time and effort in the newborns.
She said: “I had to feed the babies every three hours in the early days. They were given milk as well as mashed fruit. The first feed of the day was at 6am and the last feed was at midnight.
“One of the things I’ll never forget was wrapping the babies in their blankets for feed times.
“Wrapping them up gave them comfort as their mother would wrap her wings around them to keep them safe. As soon as they finished their feed they would fall asleep wrapped in their blankets. It really melted my heart.”
After four months of devoted care, Bruce and Wayne developed into healthy youngsters and have now re-joined the bat colony at the park.