Bats Are Boiling Alive in Australia's Heat Wave

[National Geographic] While the Northern Hemisphere has been visited by a low-hanging polar vortex, blizzards, and wintry cyclones, the Southern Hemisphere is feeling some very different extremes. Australia is experiencing nearly record high temperatures reaching just over 116 degrees Fahrenheit. It's been so hot that asphalt melted on a stretch of highway, and local news outlets reported a surge in attendance at Australian beaches as residents struggle to escape dangers like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Australian wildlife has also been impacted by the intense heat. According to conservation group Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown, which operates just south of Sydney, more than 400 flying foxes from a local bat colony were found dead, possibly due to the heat. Pictures show rows of flying fox bodies collected from trees or where they were found after dropping to the ground. Flying foxes are a type of large bat, and six species can be found in Australia. The Australian government officially lists one of those species as critically endangered and two others as vulnerable, while some species can be found in abundance and have at times been labeled a nuisance. As a species, flying foxes help maintain a healthy ecosystem, because they are one of the country's most active pollinators. It's unclear if the die-off will impact their populations overall. But speaking with Australian TV station Sky News, a spokesperson from the Campbelltown group predicted that thousands could succumb to the heat before the summer's end. Kate Ryan, a Campbelltown flying fox colony manager, told local outlet Macarthur Advertiser that the heat has deadly impacts on the animals' brains. “It would be like standing in the middle of a sandpit with no shade," she said of being a flying fox roosting in a tree. Scott Heinrich, director of the Flying Fox Conservation Fund, says many flying foxes drop from trees because of dehydration. In 2014, the last time Australia experienced comparable temperatures, more than 45,000 flying foxes are estimated to have died from the heat. "They can't cool their body down at that point," Heinrich says. "In a way, they're kind of boiling in their bodies." Read More

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