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A Batty Love


When Carmel Givens found a baby possum in 1991, not only did it change the possum’s life, but hers as well.


by Arcadia Love


Carmel Givens joined WILVOS (Wildlife Volunteers Association Inc.) to learn how to care for sick and injured native fauna. More than 30 years later, Carmel and her husband Ridley Kennedy have lost count of the number of fuzzy, furry, and winged creatures they have cared for at their Maleny property.


“Along with some other members, we started to care for orphaned Flying Foxes who stole our hearts away,” explains Carmel.


“We quickly came to the realisation that this species needed extra equipment and training to fully care for them and rehabilitate them for eventual release back into the wild.


“We needed to start a new group specialising in bats so we could fundraise and apply for grants, and so in 2002 a non-profit volunteer organisation, Bat Rescue Inc. was born. We were the first group in Southeast Queensland dedicated to bats and we still work closely with WILVOS.”


The organisation now has over 70 members from Brisbane through to Gympie and offers education and information to the public, promotes bats as an important part of our ecology, and actively participates in conservation projects that benefit bats and their habitat.


Members are permitted under Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science (DES) to rescue sick, injured, and orphaned flying-foxes and microbats with the goal of rehabilitation and release back to the wild. The trained and vaccinated volunteers are available 24/7 and provide this community service free of charge.


Carmel said there are many reasons bats require help. “The Megabats who are nectar and fruit eaters can become entangled in fruit tree netting, suffer from dog attacks, or babies can be dropped by their mothers. Many are injured on the road, found electrocuted on powerlines, or all too often, caught on a barbed wire fence. “Microbats are small, insectivorous bats which navigate and feed using echolocation - high frequency calls similar to sonar. Due to their size, microbats are often victims of domestic cat attacks and invariably do not survive. They can drown in containers of water or backyard swimming pools, become trapped inside a house, or fly into a ceiling fan.

“All bats can be injured if their roost is disturbed by predators, or through severe weather events. During a heatwave, colonies can collapse if the temperature rises in excess of 40 degrees.


“The joy of nurturing these beautiful creatures for four months, giving them a second chance, and then watching them fly off confidently into the wild is my passion. I also value bats for their ecological importance as they are vital to the well-being of our planet.”


Many trees are ready for pollination only during the night when birds and insects are asleep. The flowers of many rainforest trees throughout the world have evolved to be pollinated only by Flying Foxes, along with a large number of commercial plants used in the production of food and medicine.


Microbats are voracious and efficient controllers of insect populations, including agricultural pests and disease-carrying mosquitoes, by eating around 40% of their body weight each night.


There is increasing evidence of the economic value of microbats for agricultural production, as bats praying on insect herbivores has resulted in significantly increased crop yields and a reduction in chemical pesticide costs.


Bat Rescue Inc. has ongoing projects including a major undertaking to cover the top strand of barbed wire on fencing, mostly at commercial premises. Volunteers have almost completed a hotspot at Sunshine Coast Airport covering many kilometres of fences.


“All our rescued animals go to Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital or Eumundi Wildlife Clinic for assessment and if needed, receive anaesthetic, x-rays, and surgery,” Carmel explained.


“It was a game changer when these facilities opened. Instead of assessing the patient ourselves or trying to find a vaccinated vet, we can now access help 24/7.”

Not all members are carers. Some prefer to do rescues only, usually because of work commitments or insufficient space at home. So new volunteer carers are always needed and welcomed.


After joining, members participate in a training program, covering rescue, handling techniques, rehydration, and stabilisation. Bat Rescue Inc. also tries to help with the cost of vaccination against the Australian bat lyssavirus.


Orphan training teaches feeding and cleaning, housing, and preparation for creche and release. For their first year, carers are supplied a ‘New Carers Kit’ which includes everything needed to raise a baby flying fox. New carers also have the support of an experienced mentor for as long as needed.


Today, Carmel is the Treasurer, Care Coordinator, plus many other hats for Bat Rescue Inc. She still cares for Flying Foxes and Macropods and is happy to give advice on other wildlife as well.


If you find an injured, orphaned, or sick bat, DO NOT TOUCH! Phone the WILVO hotline on (07) 5441 6200 who will locate a vaccinated rescuer. Visit batrescue.org.au for more information about bats and how to become a carer.


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