How one internet search led to Israel's fruit bats finding a permanent sanctuary

As World Wildlife Day 2022 celebrates the planet's diverse ecosystem, one animal lover is devoting her time to saving the oft-maligned winged mammals

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On a dark night in rural Israel, Nora Lifshiz cradles a bat pup clinging to its mother.

They are the latest arrivals at the Israeli Bat Sanctuary, where hundreds of the animals can be heard clicking as they huddle together.

The creation of the refuge – down a dirt track in Aderet, an agricultural community – was sparked when Ms Lifshiz, who on occasion cared for abandoned animals, received a call about a bat.

“So I took her in and I opened the computer to see what baby fruit bats [need],” Ms Lifshiz says.

Word soon got out that someone was taking care of bats and, within three months, 90 of them were living in her Tel Aviv apartment.

An online fundraiser contributed to the creation of the sanctuary, about an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv, which a few dogs and a turkey also call home.

Israel is home to 33 species of bats, which can be found in caves as well as swooping over cities.

“The more I treat them, the more I realise they are so awesome,” says Ms Lifshiz, who has run the refuge for six years.

The Egyptian fruit bats under her care were brought to the shelter by volunteers after being found by members of the public.

“The last [few] years were super hard,” Ms Lifshiz says, because bats were cited as a possible source of the coronavirus. The cause of the pandemic has not been proven.

“People can be horrible,” she says, citing recent cases of people strangling bats or dumping them, alive, in bins.

The shelter is in debt, but Ms Lifshiz is determined to stay open and raise donations, as World Wildlife Day draws attention to the plight of animals around the globe.

“Everyone is afraid of [bats] in the beginning,” she says. “But when you see them up close, when you hold one, you fall in love."

Updated: March 04, 2022, 6:52 AM