“Hello, is Joe Tonga there?” a voice asked out of the phone. “I saw his Go Batty website and I’ve got a bit of a problem…”
This phone call was from a local resident (Angela) who lives in East Fremantle. She had discovered a bat clinging to a timber bollard in her backyard. The poor thing was severely dehydrated and utterly exhausted.
Angela dropped the bat over at our house. Upon closer inspection, it was noted that it was a Gould’s Wattled bat, aged about a year old and a female.
Dad showed it to my sister and I, met with an enthusiastic welcome. My sister Samantha was given the exciting honour of naming our new furry friend. She chose the name Ash and it stuck.
We fed the bat water from a spoon because Ash was dehydrated and thirsty. After that, we went outside to our backyard with torches and nets to hunt down some moths for Ash’s dinner. Dad caught one, but it flew away. With no luck, we continued into the front garden. We finally caught one, and then hastened inside to feed our little guest.
Ash was still hungry, so we continued searching. Samantha had a bright idea- why not check the pantry? She was lucky enough to catch a moth with just her bare hands. Because Samantha had sprayed mosquito repellent on her hands, we thought the scent might put Ash off her dinner. Ash had no such qualms, however, and gobbled it right up.
When Ash was full, we placed her back in her special container and drove to the East Fremantle Oval to try to set her free. My dad clutched Ash to his shirt so she would be warm. Then he put her on his hand and waited for her to fly away. Unfortunately, Ash did not seem to be in a hurry to fly away. She just sat on Dad’s hand, not moving.
So we returned home. We placed a small cloth with a bat’s scent into Ash’s cage to keep her warm and comfortable. We placed her in my dad’s room so he could keep a watchful eye on her. Also, he could ensure our cat would not eat Ash. After saying goodnight, we draped a black cloth around the container to keep out the light.
The next morning we looked after Ash, giving her water and food. Dad decided we should get her some food (without searching for moths!) so he and Samantha drove to City Farmers.
They returned with a container full of ‘meal worms’ which were still alive and wiggling about.
Although Ash was eating and drinking well, Dad was concerned there was something wrong with her. He took her to a veterinary clinic that specialised in native animals. Unfortunately, Ash had broken her wing and was unable to fly. This explained why she wouldn’t fly away when we tried to release her.
For a microbat that has a broken wing, life can be cruel. She normally catches her food while flying about. If she has a broken wing, she would not be able to feed herself.
The vet decided it would be kinder put Ash to sleep rather than let her suffer.
We were all upset, daddy cried, but understood it was the right decision to make.
We will never forget Ash the baby bat.
Written by Natasha Tonga
(with contributions from Samantha Tonga)