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This Fruit Bat Is An Important Part Of The Ecosystem. She Also Enjoys Belly Rubs

Bats are our friends.

You are perhaps scared of bats. It's understandable; they get a lot of bad press. Plus, there's the whole Dracula thing.

In reality though, bats are very important to the environment. They are pollinators and seed dispersers, without whom we'd have a lot less fruit and trees. They also eat an astonishing amount of insects -- enough to be worth some $3 billion a year to U.S. farmers alone.

And your concerns about disease are not entirely outlandish, but should also not be overblown. Worldwide, an estimated about 300 people a year die from rabies contracted from bats, according to the group Bat World.

If the science, the economics and the delicious fruit aren't enough to convince you that bats are our friends, perhaps you need to get a load of Maggie the fruit bat here. 

Maggie is a black fruit bat, otherwise known as a black flying fox. These are large bats who live in parts of Asia and Australia.

Maggie was found in the Australian city of Mudgeeraba, in early November. A passerby discovered her injured and lying on the ground, being attacked by birds.

Lucky for Maggie, she was taken to a bat rehabilitation center called Bats QLD, where she's being fixed up and readied for a return to the wild.

She's about 10 weeks old now, and her rehab involves being treated to pacifiers and belly scratches, often while wrapped up like a cute little bat burrito.

These adorable things are meant to be stand-ins, for ways Maggie's mother would have protected and nurtured the young bat.

For example, "in the wild the babies would be clinging onto their mum's side and sucking on her teat," Ashley Fraser, a volunteer with Bats QLD, explained by email.

In the next few weeks, Maggie will be weaned off feeding from a bottle. Then she will join the center's other juvenile bats in an area called the creche -- a British and Australian term for a nursery.

It's the place where the animals learn to stop relying on people -- to stop being our literal pals, alas -- and to start being bats.

Fraser calls this the "dehumanizing" process -- they fly, socialize and adapt to life in a colony of bats, away from people.

"The bats then become wild before release," she said. "It's always sad to break that connection, but it's the best thing for the bats." 

The forever loveable Maggie and Bruce x

Posted by Bats QLD on Monday, November 30, 2015

Yeah, we know. :(

But really, this stage of things is extremely important -- and not just for Maggie's own sake.

Black fruit bats aren't endangered, but they are a crucial part of making sure Australia's forests thrive, as the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland explains, by pollinating fruit and dispersing the seeds for Australia's native trees. 

Like the eucalyptus, that these other extremely appealing animals rely on as their primary source of food and habitat.

Maggie should be ready for release in mid-January or early February, by which time she "will have adjusted to life as a bat," said Fraser.

And in case you've adjusted to loving bats and wanting to see more of them in the belly rub and pacifier stage -- don't worry, the Bats QLD Facebook page is never short on that.

Get in touch with HuffPost's animal welfare editor at arin.greenwood@huffingtonpost.com. 

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