by Alexandra Seddon
|My name is Phoebe. I am a Grey-headed Flying-Fox.|
From the time I was born, I would travel out clinging to my mother’s belly, when she went out to forage. I held her nipple firmly in my mouth and clung to her belly with my feet.
There were very few Bloodwoods flowering the year I was born. The Forestry loggers had bulldozed many of them up into windrows to burn. (The loggers only really want the Silvertop Ash.) So there were not enough eucalyptus blossoms to sustain my mother with pollen and nectar.
My mother had very little milk for me, so I was always hungry and I did not have enough strength to hang onto her. One day I could no longer hang on and I dropped to the ground. I landed in a Primary School and a little girl found me. I do not remember exactly what happened but I found myself wrapped firmly in a handkerchief. I was kept warm and fed cow’s milk by humans.
I am a primate, not a marsupial, so I have no need for a special marsupial formula. I thrived on cow’s milk.
When I was about 5 weeks old, I no longer needed artificial warmth. I was able to hang on a clothes horse and move about a bit. Soon I was joined by other orphans. I began to take chunks of apple from a dish and squeeze them up against the roof of my mouth so that the juice could run down my throat, as adult flying-foxes do. I could spit out the fibre afterwards.
When I reached 13 weeks old, a very wise old male flying-fox joined our crèche, his name is Sparky. He taught us respect for elders and that we must hang a bit below him. We began to flap our wings a bit.
A window in our flight aviary was opened at night and we could eat first and then fly to join the thousands of flying-foxes camped in the gully below. We could fly out to forage with them in the evening for a short distance at first. We could come back to the aviary before daylight came, and then sleep for the day. As our wings grew strong we could fly out for longer distances.
All the other orphans in the crèche decided after a week or so to remain totally with the huge wild group.I used to spend time meeting heaps of friends in the group, but I preferred to return to the aviary to live.
I have been able to welcome many adult flying-foxes who have come to the aviary after being injured by entanglement in fruit netting and barbed wire or other human devices like overhead electric wires. Some of them simply cannot find enough rainforest fruit or eucalyptus blossom and so resort to orchards where they are often killed or injured by humans.
I welcome all new arrivals to the aviary. They are all part of our extended family.