On Wednesday, the Potter Park Zoo, 1301 S. Pennsylvania Ave., in Lansing, officially welcomed in its newest animals — Seba’s short-tailed bats.
Seba’s short-tailed bats are small, fruit-eating bats native to South and Central America, said Melissa Lincoln, one of the two primary caregivers for the bats.
The 27 male bats fluttered in a dark cage in the bird and reptile house at the zoo. Visitors to the opening were able to taste some of the fruits the Seba’s short-tailed bats eat. The bat’s favorites are juicy papayas and bright bananas, Lincoln said.
There were about 200 people who signed up to attend the event, said Payal Ravani, marketing coordinator for the Potter Park Zoo.
MSU alumna and Lansing resident Emily Rohrer is a volunteer at the Potter Park Zoo, and she said she came to the grand opening to support the zoo.
“I try to come to every event possible, any excuse to be here,” Rohrer said.
Potter Park Zoo partnered with Bat Conservation International, which works to conserve bats and inform people how to help out.
Jake Pechtel, communications director for the Potter Park Zoo, said the zoo planned to receive 25 bats, but because the animal is so difficult to catch and the zoo specifically wanted males, they ended up with two extra.
Since the Potter Park Zoo never has had bats before, many changes and additions to the zoo needed to happen in order to accommodate the bats, including adding a double door, so the bats can’t escape, Lincoln said.
Lincoln said the exhibit is meant to teach visitors about White-nose Syndrome, which already has killed millions of bats in eastern North America. Lincoln said she suspects it will not be long before the disease hits Michigan.
Seba’s short-tailed bats are not native to Michigan, but other local bats could be killed by the disease if it strikes the state. Without the bats, insect populations, including mosquitoes, might increase, Lincoln said.
Rohrer said the Seba’s short-tailed bats also add diversity to the zoo, and a chance to teach the community about the bat’s important role in the ecosystem.
“(It’s) more likely that people are to say, ‘That Potter Park is a real zoo!’” Rohrer said.