Rescued bats released “to fly and to live” amid intense fighting in northeastern Ukraine

The Ukrainian Bat Rehabilitation Center says it has finally released the last of its bats that are well enough to fend for themselves in the wild amid war.

The group, which is based in Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine near the Russian border, has been in the line of fire since the war began. Bombs and gunfire have been happening all around the facility’s two locations.

It’s the only such organization in the country and has helped rescue thousands of bats since 2013. It has offices in the city, and a base at the Feldman Ecopark, a zoo that has been battered by Russian attacks.

There’s only one bat rescue group in Ukraine. Photo: Ukrainian Bat Rehabilitation Center/Facebook

Two weeks ago they started releasing the bats being housed in their city office.

But it was a challenge between the fighting and danger to move around in evenings to find release points close to rivers to aid the bats in navigation.

“Sure, they will [easily] find a way for the nearest forests,” the group said. “However, [no] living creature [is safe] now in this part of Ukraine. But for our bats it is the best option: to fly and to live.”

Then, their next mission began.

On Friday, officials managed to get to the Ecopark and rescue nearly 1,000 bats that were put in bat-boxes and cages in February for hibernation, but with access to water. It was a dangerous journey requiring travel not far from the frontlines.

“Our bats hibernated perfectly, just a few dead individuals for more than a month of hibernation,” the group said. “They gathered in bat-boxes and packed very densely. They slept so deeply that no external circumstances would disturb them (even regularly shelling).”

The bats hibernated well. Photo: Ukrainian Bat Rehabilitation Center/Facebook

The group’s building was also spared damage.

The group’s building survived damage. Photo: Ukrainian Bat Rehabilitation Center/Facebook

Next, was to feed and prepare the bats for release.

The bats needed to be fed before they could be released. Photo: Ukrainian Bat Rehabilitation Center/Facebook

By Tuesday, this large group of bats was ready to be set free.

“Finally all our bats were released! Only all-life-long rehabilitated individuals and several weak bats are staying with us,” the group added. “Finally, we can state that not a single bat was abandoned or died unattended due to the war.”

And for now at least, all the workers and volunteers are also safe.

“We are alive, not injured and have all basic needs!” they wrote.

The group is taking donations to get through the war and to resume rehab work after.

About the author

Recovering newspaper reporter.

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