A brutal heat wave that gripped much of Australia this weekend saw footpaths literally melt in the sun and 80-year temperature records tumble ― but one of its more tragic effects came when hundreds of bats in a colony in Sydney’s southwest simply dropped dead.
The environmental group Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown, based an hour outside Sydney, reported Sunday that hundreds of flying foxes have died due to the extreme heat and insufficient shade cover. Most of the dead bats were young, with adults better able to find shelter and cooler temperatures. Temperatures hit nearly 45 degrees Celsius, or 113 Fahrenheit, in the region over the weekend. Wildlife experts say any temperature over 35 degrees Celsius can be fatal for bats.
“Adults sought out shade and more shelter further up the creek resulting in many babies being left behind to deal with the heat. Many pups were on their last lot of breaths before getting much needed help by the WIRES members,” Help Save the Wildlife said on Facebook, referring to the New South Wales wildlife rescue group.
“As the dead bodies were recovered and placed in a pile for a head count the numbers had reached 200 not including the many hundreds that were still left in trees being unreachable, sadly a few adults were also included in the body count.”
A later post by the group claimed that more than 400 bats had died in the heat.
Over the weekend, volunteers tried to rescue the living bats, supplying them with water. Photos posted by the Campbelltown group show volunteers holding young bats in pillows and towels, and rigging up IV bags of fluid.
“There were tears shed and hearts sunken, it’s devastating when a colony like our local one goes down like this due to heat, this colony needs more canopy cover and shaded areas to help with our ever rising hot summers because this episode will surely not be the last,” the group said on Facebook.
Apparent temperatures in other parts of the city reached 57 degrees Celsius, or 134 Fahrenheit, such as at the Sydney Cricket Ground during a cricket match between Australia and England. (Yes, not only do Australians endure this brutal heat, we choose to spend five entire days standing and playing sport in it.)
Despite the sad day for wildlife volunteers, the Campbelltown group posted a video later that evening showing large numbers of bats taking to the skies.
The next day, the group shared images and video of volunteers trying to cool down other local wildlife, including koalas.