How Disney’s Animal Kingdom Goes Batty Over Halloween

Bat training and enrichment at Disney's Animal KingdomAs Halloween approaches, several creatures of the night are getting a series of treats from a team of medical experts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Around this time each year, veterinary care specialists conduct annual wellness checks on a roost of endangered bats as part of Disney’s commitment to excellent animal care.

The bats, known as Malayan flying foxes, receive complete physical examinations, including blood analysis, vaccination and dental cleaning in front of thousands of Guests who view the procedures from a large, on-stage window into a state-of-the art veterinary hospital. With a wingspan close to six feet, the Malayan flying fox is one of the largest bats in the world and can be seen on exhibit along the Maharajah Jungle Trek in the Asia section of the theme park.

“Guests are always fascinated with the amount of care provided to our animals,” said veterinarian Dr. Mark Stetter, director of animal health for Disney’s Animal Programs. “During this time of year, when there’s an increased interest in bats, we have a perfect opportunity to dispel some of the myths about bats and explain the important role bats play in the eco-system.”

Malayan flying foxes are mammals that eat and rest in trees and roost at dawn. As fruit-eating animals, bats assist in pollination and seed dispersal for a great variety of plants that are useful for lumber, food, medicine and other products. Bats are also helpful around the neighborhood where they eat mosquitoes and other bugs.

In addition to receiving annual exams, the male bats at Disney’s Animal Kingdom voluntarily cooperate in their own medical care, making veterinary treatment much easier and safer. Through training, bats willingly allow themselves to be weighed, spread their wings for inspection, or open their mouths for dental evaluations. The intent is to help the animals become comfortable with husbandry practices that help monitor their well-being.

About Malayan Flying Fox
Flying foxes have long, sharp, curved claws on their toes, which allow them to hang effortlessly upside-down in trees. The skin between the fingers is smooth and strong while the rest of the bat’s body is covered with soft fur. As the name suggests, the head resembles that of a small fox because of the small ears, long snout and large eyes.

Unlike most other warm-blooded animals, bats maintain a warm body temperature only when active. While sleeping during the day, their body temperature drops to the temperature of the air around them. In warmer temperatures, bats cool themselves by fanning their wings, licking their chest and wings, and by panting. When flying, legs work in unison with the wings, somewhat like swimming through the air.

Bat Facts:

  • Bats are the only mammals that fly. Other mammals may glide through the air, but bats flap their wings and fly.
  • The life span of a bat is about 20 years.
  • Females of a colony give birth during a specific season, although the peak varies geographically. Most births occur in May and June.
  • Gestation takes about 180 days, and usually a single pup of around 133 grams is born. Twins are rare.
  • The young nurse for two to three months. The mothers carry their young for the first few days; then, the bats are left in the roost tree while the mothers forage for food.
  • Sexual maturity is attained in 18-24 months.
  • For the first few days, the mothers carry their young while they forage for food. Soon, though, the young bats are left behind during these hunts for food.

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