Several months later, in 2011, I visited a zoo called Cango, in Oudtshoorn, South Africa. This place was a breeding center for cheetahs, lions and more.
At the entrance, there was a big greenhouse with tropical animals from all parts of the world in it and when I visited, I was alone with them; I saw birds such as agami herons and turacos as well small antelopes called dik-diks approached me.
The vast majority of them were of course raised by humans, which explained why they were friendly. There was also a young flying fox hanging on the branches, and when it saw me sitting on the paths, it flew over and started climbing up my leg and biting my arms and hands in a friendly manner but strongly enough.
Obviously, it has been raised by one the zoo’s employees and looking for a new friend.
However, it was biting me hard and I couldn’t figure out how to handle it anymore and to the point where I finally had to grab him by its legs and hung it on a branch in order to resume my tour.
As I was leaving, I was thinking about the first flying fox I met in Bali and how ecstatic it would have been if it knew that in the end, one of its own took revenge on me. For two months in 2010, I traveled through Bali and Lombok in Indonesia, Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore.
During my trip, I visited a lot of parks and refuges and in between other interesting activities, I took diving lessons on the island of Koh Tao, Thailand. One of the first shelters I visited was a sea turtle shelter on Turtle Island, Nusa Dua in Bali.
They collected turtle eggs on the small island, and once these hatched they would release the little turtles in the sea and keep some to show them to the public who visited the shelter.
It was a project funded by the Government, and so there were guides at the entrance who accompanied us from the beginning to the end of the circuit. There were hawksbill, green and olive ridley sea turtles and we could see the little babies and also feed seaweed to the adults that were living in the big artificial lake.
That wasn’t all; there was a wide array of other animals which we could pet or hold as we took pictures with them. For instance eagles, calaos, iguanas and snakes. Of course I took the complete tour, asked a lot of questions to our guide and spent a while at the lagoon with the turtles.
But what I will never forget—and the story that made a lot of people laugh—was my encounter with a big frugivorous bat, a so-called “flying fox”.
We were allowed to enter a cage and the guide took a large bat, hanging it upside down, out of a basket and he let me hold it by its legs, head upside down. The only instruction was not to pet the animal.
The problem was that one of my biggest dreams was to pet an animal of the same species, therefore, I decided to touch its legs and a little bit of its body unnoticed. That’s when the bat gave out a piercing cry as if I was trying to kill it. The guide then said nicely: “Miss, please do not touch it.”
I put on an innocent look and before he knew it;
I touched it again. It shrieked and the guide gave me an unfriendly look… I didn’t do it again, I handed the animal back to the guide and he put it back in the basket. The result was a series of pictures of me with an astounded expression on my face and the big bat in my hands.
Author: Helena Arroyo
Translation: Noëlla Moussa