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Holy bat exams!

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications
Photos by John Loughlin, Woodland Park Zoo

Bats may be top of mind on Halloween, but these amazing mammals should be revered every day of the year. Woodland Park Zoo’s six bats—Indian flying foxes—recently received their annual exams and are healthy and thriving.

A radiograph shows off the massive wingspan of the Indian flying fox.
The zoo’s animal health team performed the wellness exams at the zoo’s veterinary hospital. Ranging in age from 8 to 11 years old and weighing between 1.3 and 1.8 pounds, each bat received an overall health assessment that included body weights, bloodwork, dental and radiographs. The checkups are a part of Woodland Park Zoo’s exemplary animal welfare program.

The Indian flying fox, also known as the greater Indian fruit bat, has a widespread range on the Indian subcontinent that extends from Pakistan to Southeast Asia and China, and south to the Maldive Islands. 

“There were some small wing web holes and a few dental issues, all of which are not uncommon in bats,” said Dr. Tim Storms, an interim veterinarian at Woodland Park Zoo. A radiograph revealed previous fractures in one of the bat’s wings and knee that has resulted in some restricted range of motion in the affected joints, but this bat’s injuries were stable and didn’t require treatment. “Overall, our bats are healthy and continue to fascinate our guests in the Adaptations Building.” 

Fans of the nocturnal winged mammals can check out the zoo’s live Bat Cam, equipped with night vision, at all hours. The lights go down in the exhibit at 8:00 p.m. PT, and the bats become even more active during the night. Watch the colony of six male fruit bats as they dine, groom each other and chill out upside down at

The animal health team carefully handles one of the bats during a health exam.
Halloween is an opportune time to debunk myths surrounding bats such as bats are pests, are blind, are bloodsucking vampires, carry disease and are dirty. “Unfortunately, this extraordinary group of mammals is misunderstood. Many critical, ecological benefits come from bats,” says Jenny Pramuk, PhD, a curator at Woodland Park Zoo. “Bats voluntarily eat up to 600 mosquitoes an hour, while you are sleeping, protecting us from malaria, West Nile Virus, dengue and yellow fever. Bats help keep insect numbers down. They are a natural pest control and play a big role in helping pollinate flowers and fruit trees. And they’re no more likely than other wild animals to carry disease. We need bats.”

Bats are in danger. More than 1,300 species of bats exist across six continents, with 15 species found in Washington state. Their populations are declining across the world due to multiple threats including habitat destruction and roost disturbance, wind turbine disruption, and being hunted as a food source. According to Bats Northwest, white-nose syndrome, a devastating fungal disease, has killed more than 6 million insect-eating bats in North America since it was first documented in 2006.

A tiny stethoscope does the job!
As pollinators and pest controllers, the conservation of bats has a positive impact on the ecological health of the planet. To help protect bats and their habitats, join Woodland Park Zoo in supporting Bats Northwest, which helps protect Pacific Northwest bat populations through education and research. For the past four years, Bats Northwest has conducted acoustic surveys for bat species at several King County locations east of Seattle to develop new information on bat species in this region and their seasonality and habitat use. The survey data also is helping Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s assessment of potential impacts to local bats from white-nose syndrome.