Back in the States

By Kim Lengel, Vice President of Conservation and Education

It’s 6:30 a.m. New York time and we’re here.  After picking up my car from long-term parking, Tim and I headed to the South African Airways cargo area where we met our U.S. broker,  the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer, and Scott Hughes from the Zoo. Scott is our internal expert on navigating the cargo areas of the regional airports.  He typically is the one who drops off and picks up animals from shipments and he knows his stuff.   One last production of permits for the USFWS officer and we were cleared to leave.  The bats all looked great so while Scott had brought food and even veterinary supplies should Tim need to administer fluids, there was no need. There was still some food in the crates and the bats were alert and active.   The spiders looked pretty good too although at least two of them had not survived the trip..
 
Our job now was to get back to the Zoo as quickly as possible.  We had to fight some New York rush hour traffic but once we cleared the City, we made good time on the NJ Turnpike and were back at the Zoo within 2.5 hours.  Once there we had lots of people waiting to help us get the animals unpacked and moved into their new homes.  As we removed the bats from their crates, we weighed each one so we could assess if they had lost weight on the journey.  Most had lost a small but insignificant amount of weight  and all of the bats were alert and robust.  They immediately started to settle into their new home in our veterinary hospital where they will live for the next six months of their quarantine period. 
 
Four spiders out of 72 had not survived the trip and we immediately set about releasing the others into several other rooms in the vet hospital.  The best strategy with these spiders is to give them room to spin their webs as quickly as possible. We also immediately began releasing food items into the rooms, and in some cases, placing them directly in the webs so that the spiders would feed.  Hand-feeding 65+ spiders is a time-intensive process but they should create their own webs quickly and begin to self-feed. 
 
Now I was focused on getting home to see my family. I’d been away for a week and a half and I was really looking forward to reconnecting.   While I was off having an adventure, my husband was home keeping everything going for our two young kids.  I was really excited to see Rodrigues and Mauritius but even more excited to see Dave, Devon, and Nathan again.  

10/02/2013 : Back in the States

It’s 6:30 a.m. New York time and we’re here. Our job now is to get back to the Zoo as quickly as possible.

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10/01/2013 : Heading back

We checked the bats and they all looked alert. They had eaten well during the night – a good sign that they were settled in.

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09/30/2013 : Catching spiders

Tim, an avid kayaker, was determined not to leave Mauritius without kayaking in the Indian Ocean.  So he was up very early on Monday for a sunrise kayak on the bay.  He and his guide had a great hour, kayaking with a group of spinner dolphins! 

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09/29/2013 : Tourist Time

We took a long bus ride to Quatre Bonnes for the weekly market where we had a chance to pick up some souvenirs for family, friends, and coworkers. 

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09/28/2013 : Getting ready for the move

Back in our rooms after dinner, I heard the distinctive sound of fruit bats breeding.  I pinpointed the noise to a nearby mango tree and using a flashlight, I picked up the eyeshine of two Mauritius fruit bats – Pteropus niger – in the tree.

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09/28/2013 : Rare birds in Mauritius

The aviary is only a short ride away from our hotel and houses some of the rarest avian species in the world. The aviary used to be a big center for captive propagation and reintroduction but now currently houses mostly injured or non-releasable specimens, with the exception of the bats. 

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09/27/2013 : Seeing an old friend

On Friday morning, I was finally able to see Mary Jane Raboude. During her ten years as the first REEP, MJ and I had spent a lot of time together. She had visited the US 4 times for continuing education, to spend time at the Zoo, and to present at conferences.  She always stayed at our home so our family had become close to MJ. 

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09/26/2013 : Anse Quitor and Francois Leguat Tortoise Park

This site is more challenging, in some ways, than Grand Montagne.  While it’s generally easier to access – no cliff faces to deal with –because it’s so dry and because wandering domestic animals are more of a problem, reforestation is slower going here.

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09/26/2013 : Touring Rodrigues

Very proud to be a part of an organization that has played such a major role in saving a species.

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09/25/2013 : Off to Rodrigues

Some more background on how the Philly Zoo became a champion for endangered bats half way around the world. 

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09/24/2013 : Some background on Mauritius

The Republic of Mauritius is an island nation located about 1200 miles off the southeast coast of the African continent in the Indian Ocean, which includes the principal island of Mauritius, Rodrigues (the only home of the Rodrigues fruit bat), and several smaller outlying islands and archipelagos.

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09/24/2013 : Arriving in Mauritius

I'm so excited to return the island where I did my graduate work almost 20 years ago.  It's hard to believe I've been working to conserve Rodrigues fruit bats for that long.

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09/23/2013 : Traveling to Mauritius

Veterinarian Dr. Tim Georoff and I left Monday morning from JFK airport in NYC for our flight to Mauritius by way of Johannesburg, South Africa.  We're travelling all this way for the primary purpose of accompanying 30 Rodrigues fruit bats back to the Zoo from the long-time captive colony of bats at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Center in Mauritius.

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