IN THE NEWS: 'Cooking alive': The desperate fight to save Australian wildlife from collapse


IN THE NEWS: On DEC 19, 2019

With Australian temperatures smashing previous records, wildlife carers across the country are bracing for the collapse of bat colonies.

When temperatures reach 42 degrees flying foxes cannot maintain regular body function and they fall from the trees and die.

As of 3pm on Thursday, the temperature hit 41 degrees in Singleton, NSW.

Ann McSweeney, from Wildlife ARC, was alone in the park, hoping the worst would not happen as bats were flapping their wings and panting like puppies to try and cool themselves.

She'd been calling council for hours trying to get sprinkler systems recently installed switched on to cool the animals.

Around the base of one of the large nesting trees in the park is a reminder of the potential for devastation – gnarled bodies of dead baby bats.

Ms McSweeney has been a volunteer bat carer for 15 years and nursed countless animals back to health. The park in Singleton holds special significance to her: she sees herself as the protector of the colony.

“A few years ago, I lost my husband in October and bat season's in November,” she said.

“To help me get through everything I used to come here and they helped me.

“So, I'm paying my dues back to my animals... This park is part of me because they help me out.”

Temperatures threaten to hit 42 degrees

Ms McSweeney said there was no feeling like bringing a fallen bat back to life. Even when they're unconscious and dying in her arms, she refuses to give up on them and she's brought back numerous bats from the brink of death.

Two years ago, hundreds came down in the park due to heat.

“There was nothing you could do, it was bad,” she said.

Despite her inability to save them all, she was determined to help as many as she could.

“What I try to tell myself is everyone we save is one we can put back,” she said.

Speaking with Yahoo News Australia in the park, she described the scene that day. “We had the babies and bats lined up along that path,” she recalled.

“This one here is called the death tree because they seem to come from over here and into here,” she said as she walked over to a sick looking tree is the far corner of the park.

Suddenly the bats flee from the tree. The sprinkler system has been turned on.

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