In 2016, Gayatri Sarang, a 35-year-old baker, earned the nickname 'Batmom'. Far from any connection to the Dark Knight, Sarang was foster parent to two baby bats, Athena and Bruce, who were rescued in Andheri and Vile Parle respectively. Having devoted four months to the pups, Sarang is now out with a booklet titled, Two Bats and a Girl, which takes readers through her endearing and challenging journey.
Sarang, now Pune-based, used to be a Prabhadevi resident and was contacted by vet Dr Shivani Tandel to take a baby bat into her home. “The bat, whom I later named Bruce, was a tiny Greater Short-Nose Fruit Bat, weighing six grams. His mother had died, having been caught in a manja,” says Sarang, adding, “I have rescued birds, dogs and cats since high school, and, when Shivani's call came, I just couldn't say no.” In due course, she was asked to shelter one more bat, a Lesser Short-Nose Fruit Bat, who she named Athena.
In the absence of her mother's protective wings, bat pup Athena is swaddled to keep her warm and secure
In the days that followed, Sarang's knowledge of urban wildlife rehabilitation picked up at a course in Pune run at Rehabber's Den by conservationist Devna Arora, was put to test. It meant learning on the job — feeding, medicating, cleaning, swaddling them, in the absence of their mothers' protective wings. It also meant allowing them to suckle on fingers and keep themselves cool by fanning their wings. And, then, in the end, a happy bat is one that buzzes, much like how cats purr. “For four months I couldn't sleep for even two hours. A bat baby can have only 1 ml of formula at a time but needs to be fed round the clock. We all get so emotional about rescuing baby animals, but there is a lot of technical know-how that is required. However, in the end, you do realise that all animals are the same; they all want love, food and shelter,” says Sarang.
The booklet, priced at `499 (plus shipping) and available on www.photojaanic.com, is intended to share this know-how. However, Sarang is clear that Two Bats and a Girl is not proposed as the ultimate guide for bat rehab. While Bruce, unfortunately, passed away a month after he was found, Athena survived. Sarang used social media to dispel myths about bats being scary or gross, and to spread awareness about their habitation loss due to trees being cut down.
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