A ZOOKEEPER at Cotswold Wildlife Park has taken on the role of surrogate mother to two abandoned bats.

Natalie Horner is hand rearing the nocturnal Egyptian fruit bats which were discovered on their own when the bat house was undergoing a major revamp.

Natalie said: “Mother Bats often ‘park’ their babies to give themselves a break. So we left them for a day, in the hope their mums would come and collect them again, as the chances of the babies surviving without a feed and warmth are very slim.”

Their mothers never returned so Natalie decided to look after them herself, naming the pups Bruce and Wayne.

At just four to six weeks old, they needed round the clock care and were kept in an incubator.

“I had to feed the babies every three hours in the early days, they were given milk and mashed fruit”, said Natalie.

“The first feed of the day was at 6am and the last feed was at midnight.

“As soon as they finished their feed they would fall asleep wrapped in their blankets.

“It really melted my heart."

When Bruce and Wayne reached 10 weeks, Natalie started giving them flying lessons.

“I would hang them from my finger and gently bob them up and down to encourage them to wing beat”, said Natalie.

“As soon as they were able to fly comfortably around my spare room they were upgraded to their own enclosure at the park before being reintroduced to the colony.

“By the time the Bats were six months old they were fully self-feeding and very strong and capable flyers.”

Natalie was than able to introduce them back into the colony.