Bad circumstances may have led to Peekaboo living at a Texas bat sanctuary, but she seems pretty thrilled with how things have turned out.
"We believe Peekaboo is smiling, and yes, she is a very happy bat," Bat World Sanctuary founder Amanda Lollar says. "She is extremely cheerful, playful and animated, and of course -- because she is a bat -- she is highly intelligent as well."
Peekaboo is an Egyptian fruit bat who lives at the Bat World Sanctuary in Weatherford, Texas, where she seems to grin a whole lot. It is believed that animals can both experience and express human-like emotions.
Peekaboo is an Egyptian fruit bat who has been living at Bat World since 2009, when she and her mother were rescued from tough conditions at a roadside zoo. The two were living with dozens of roostmates in tiny cages, with no room to fly and no toys to keep their minds active. They often went long periods without food and water.
After the USDA got involved, Bat World "happily offered to take them," Lollar says.
But once they were in Texas, Peekaboo's mother abandoned the then-1-month-old pup, who was "found hanging from a branch in our large flight enclosure one morning, alone and crying for food," says Lollar. "So she was hand-raised and cared for until she was old enough to eat fruit on her own and rejoin her colony."
This period of Peekaboo's young life appears to have been formative. Here's how her enduring love of people is described on the Bat World website:
She apparently believes every human was created entirely for her personal enjoyment, to do with as she pleases. She is particularly fond of ponytails, buns, or anyone with longer hair. When she approaches her target, in her hummingbird pattern of flight, she aims for the part of the head that has the most hair mass.
If you are among those with little to no hair mass, then she will simply splat herself on top of your head. Once perched, she usually goes for an ear. All other noise is replaced with loud snuffles as she explores your ear canal with her nose, which happens to fit perfectly inside.
Peekaboo sits on a Bat World volunteer's shoulder, mugs for the camera.
Despite her proclivity for human company, Peekaboo gets along with Bat World's other rescue bats, which live in large, natural light-filled enclosures with vines to climb on and toys to play with.
Mornings bring fruit snacks and wellness checks, followed by naps, which Peekaboo enjoys among a colony of fellow Egyptian fruit bats or with some African fruit bats, with whom she "snoozes and dreams her little bat dreams," says Lollar.
Evenings involve a bounty of more fruits and vegetables, plus playing, socializing and general battiness.
The sanctuary is also in the process of building an outside enclosure, so its formerly abused, orphaned and otherwise non-releasable charges can enjoy a good life.
The hope is that by living so well and being so happy, bats like Peekaboo will, in turn, do some good for others of their kind.
Bats are, after all, the victims of pervasive misinformation and misplaced fears. No, they don't drink human blood, they are not blind, very few of them carry rabies, and, as Peekaboo proves, they "are not ugly or dirty," says Lollar.
"In fact, most bats have very cute faces, some even resemble deer, rabbits and little Chihuahuas. Like cats, bats spend an enormous amount of time grooming their fur to keep it soft and silky," she says -- they're critically important both ecologically and economically, as well.
They've got more than just stereotypes and myths against them. There's also a devastating disease called white-nose syndrome -- which is thought to have killed some 6 million bats in the last six years -- that threatens to wipe out some species of bats altogether.
So, what does all this have to do with Peekaboo and Bat World's mission? Hopefully, a whole lot.
"For centuries, bats have been hunted due to superstition, ignorance, fear and greed," and because of white-nose syndrome, "we are now in the 11th hour of their struggle for survival," says Lollar. "Peekaboo inspires people to care about bats as a whole. You have to care about something before you want to conserve it, and caring about what happens to bats is what they need more than anything right now."
Find out more about Peekaboo and her friends on the Bat World Sanctuary Facebook page. Bat World is participating in a special fundraiser on Sept. 18; all donors will receive virtual hugs from Peekaboo.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with stories of the misunderstood animals in your life.