Hundreds of Baby Flying Foxes Are Rescued After a Heat Wave in Australia

Experts estimate that as many as 5,000 have died.

Orphaned flying-fox pups bundled up for transport. (Photo: WIRED)

Nov 19, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

This week’s scorching heat in New South Wales, Australia, has killed an estimated 5,000 flying fox bats and injured about 400 pups that are now recovering at rescue centers.

Temperatures soared to 111 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, reported The Daily Telegraph, causing many flying foxes to drop dead from trees. Authorities have been cleaning up the grisly pileup since.

“Some areas along the riverbank are inaccessible and the stench from the rotting carcasses will be quite unbearable for some time yet,” John Walker, a local council manager, told the Telegraph.

“People should avoid the area and not try to help living bats themselves as they could bite and scratch and some carry the [rabies-like] lyssavirus.”

The nonprofit rescue organization WIRES has coordinated care for about 400 surviving pups.

“Thousands of adults died and volunteers from every available wildlife care group have been working around the clock to keep these pups alive,” wrote WIRES in a Facebook post. “The feeding of these pups is around the clock, making up bottles, feeding, washing up bottles and teats.”

The die-off happened just days after the country hosted the Group of 20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane, where Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, “We can’t pursue environmental improvements at the expense of economic progress.” In response, more than 400 protesters gathered at Sydney’s Bondi Beach and stuck their heads in the sand to mock the government’s reluctance to take action against climate change. The country began experiencing record heat waves in October, a month before summer started.

Flying foxes, the largest bats in the world, keep native forests healthy by pollinating and dispersing seeds.