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The Zoo’s vampire bats live in a colony of 20-25 animals. Because they are all very similar in appearance, each bat has a tiny transponder or microchip implanted in its shoulder. Keepers can then use a scanning device or transponder reader to identify the animals as individuals.
Nocturnal wing of the Small Mammal House
This bat is one of three species of vampire bats. They have a wingspan of 8” and grizzled fur in shades of brown. Their six incisors are razor-sharp and chisel-like, and they also have four canines that are used for cutting. They have pointed ears, which differentiates them from the other two species of vampire bat. They also have longer thumbs than other bats.
In the wild, vampire bats live around nine years. In captivity, they can have a life expectancy of nearly 20 years.
They breed throughout the year, with a pregnancy of up to 200+ days. The female gives birth to a single young, although twins do occur. At birth, the newborn weighs only about ¼ oz. The babies are well-developed with open eyes and nurse from the female for the first 2 months. From the 2nd - 4th months they dine on regurgitated blood. Weaning is completed at 9 to 10 months, at which time they reach sexual maturity.
The vampire bat is highly social as shown by their living in colonies of anywhere from 6-2000. However, groups of 20-100 bats are more common. When a group exceeds 50 subgroups of 8-20 are formed. They are reciprocally altruistic, which means they assist each other. If one bat cannot search for food in a night then another female will regurgitate blood for her, especially if she is a new mother.
The vampire bat is unique among all other bat species because it is capable of walking, running, hopping and climbing on the ground. It can even spring up off the ground directly into flight.
In the wild, they exclusively eat fresh mammalian blood, mostly from domestic hoof stock including cattle and horses. It is rare for them to attack humans for food. They feed at ground level, usually by nicking the heel and Achilles tendon area of the foot. In the Zoo, they eat bovine blood and vitamins.
They are found from northern Mexico to central Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. They also appear on the islands of Trinidad and Margarita off northern Venezuela.
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