Microbats injured in New South Wales and the ACT no longer need to go to Queensland for flight rehabilitation.
A new aviary has been built at Windellama near Goulburn allowing high-flying species to regain their flight fitness locally.
Bats which are injured or sick and taken into care can start to lose muscle and fitness in just two weeks.
“It takes intensive flight time to rebuild that fitness and finding safe places to fly some species had been difficult,” said Heather Caulfield, bat coordinator for the Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES).
Microbats which fly and hunt above the forest canopy have wings adapted for very fast straight flight and many need to drop from a height of four metres to gain velocity to take off.
“Some species like the freetails won’t even attempt to fly unless they can echolocate a minimum of eight clear metres around them,” Ms Caulfield said.
In the past, rehabilitators have had to send the bats to flight facilities in Queensland so they could gain the flight fitness they needed to be released.
“When you’re transporting them interstate you’re increasing risk and increasing stress for the animal,” Ms Caulfield said.
So WIRES decided to build NSW’s first flight centre at Windellama with the help of a community grant from Holcim Australia.
The facility offers a space large enough for species like the freetails to take to the air.
Once bats are nursed back to health by carers, they are taken to the aviary where they practise flying and hunting for one to two months.
“When we release them they need to be able to start flying immediately so they can avoid predators and they can hunt their food,” Ms Caulfield said.
“That can take months of really solid flying before they get the muscle tone back and they’re as agile and manoeuvrable as they used to be.”
The bats are monitored each night until they are ready to be returned to the wild.
“They’re returned to exactly where they came from because these little guys live for about 20 years and they have very, very strong social and family relationships,” Ms Caulfield said.
There is already a queue to use the facility with about 65 bats from across NSW in line to stretch their wings.
If you come across a sick or injured bat or flying fox do not touch or try to contain it.
Bats and flying foxes can carry Australian bat lyssavirus so no risk should be taken.
Contact your local wildlife group like WIRES on 1300 094 737 or ACT Wildlife on 0432 300 033.