Biologists Attempt to Save Orphaned Baby Bat

The effort spotlights how vulnerable and fragile this species is in its early days.

Biologists Attempt to Save Orphaned Baby Bat

The effort spotlights how vulnerable and fragile this species is in its early days.

At a glance, it looks like a mix between a Chihuahua and a dragon. A baby fruit bat, not often seen up close, was recently taken in by two biologists who attempted to save its life in Borneo.

A storm had hit the region only the night before, and they reasoned that the bat was knocked from the tree. No trace of its mother could be found.

The bat's care was captured on camera by biologist Fredrik Jutfelt from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Jutfelt, whose expertise is more with aquatic animals, was leading a group of students on an expedition in Borneo when local biologist Giovanni Derasmo found the young creature.

It's a side of the species not often seen—cute, cuddly, and helpless—and it highlights just how vulnerable the bats are at a young age.

Bat pups and their moms have a special bond. Females typically have only one to two babies at a time, and fly with their pup under their wings for the first month of its life.

“It was quite tiny when it was found, maybe a month old,” he says. “It woke up several times throughout the night, and it needed a lot of contact.”

Unfortunately for the young bat and its adoptive parents, it died shortly after being filmed. Derasmo suspects it was too young to be weened from its mother. It was fed a diet of banana and soy milk, but at such an early age, it may have been too much for the pup's digestive system.

A Cuter Side to Bats

Despite not making it, both biologists feel the rescue attempt showed a cuter side to bats that people don't often see.

In Jutfelt's footage, the pup can be seen using its wings to crawl over human hands more than twice its size. Extended, they look like two hands with long, delicate skin membranes spread between each appendage.

While bats may not be the first animal that comes to mind when thinking of “cute” animals, the young pup has all the universal characteristics that make animals adorable, according to research. Scientists have found that big eyes, soft bodies, and large heads make animals and babies endearing.

Borneo fruit bats are a common species in the region, but, like the island's other animals, they face threats from deforestation. It's an environmental change Jutfelt witnessed on his recent trip.

“There’s massive deforestation in large areas and large palm plantations that just kill off everything,” says Jutfelt. “You go from some of the most diverse habitats in the world to monoculture with just one tree. It’s devastating to see this.”

The biologist hopes the baby bat will be like an ambassador for its species, showing people that bats aren't quite as scary as their reputation suggests.