Though bats often get a bad rap for being dirty and full of diseases, the reality is that they’re highly intelligent, social animals, and completely adorable!

This video released by the BBC shows us just how cute they are, as rescuers in Australia syringe-feed orphaned baby bats with milk.

But as with any animal rescue, there’s a heartbreaking story behind the cuteness: these fruit bats — also known as flying foxes — in Australia are dying by the thousands as record-breaking heatwaves sweep through the country.

When temperatures soar above 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit), the bats are at high risk; they suffer from severe heat stroke and dehydration, falling to the ground and perishing.

If rescuers reach them in time, the animals have a chance of survival. Workers from Fauna Rescue of South Australia and other organizations spray them with misters and rehydrate them with fluids.

But for every bat rescued, hundreds more die. Most notably, a heatwave that swept through northern Queensland last November decimated the population of spectacled flying foxes. In only two days an estimated 23,000 animals died — about a third of the country’s population.

At one site alone, rescuers discovered just 54 still alive among the 3,000 dead.

Dr. Justin Welbergen from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment in Sydney, Australia cites climate change as the main factor in the mass deaths.

“Flying foxes are Australia’s canaries in the coal mine,” he says.

Because the flying fox colonies live in and around urban areas and these mass deaths are so visible to humans, they are a vivid reminder that Earth’s creatures — including humans — are in trouble.

Just last week, Australian cities hit record high temperatures of 49 degrees Celsius (around 120 Fahrenheit). Rescue centers are overwhelmed with the number of orphans flooding in, and these unique and adorable mammals are at risk of being wiped out completely.

 

What’s New…

Rescued baby bat