Amanda Lollar has been a little batty since she rescued an animal on a Texas sidewalk 13 years ago.
"One bat altered the course of my life," she says, "one little, two-inch mammal."
Lollar's quest to save that one bat developed into a passion to save all bats.
In 1994, she founded what's become the largest bat rescue center on the planet: Bat World, a not-for-profit organization located in what used to be her mother's furniture store.
According to the Bat World Sanctuary's philosophy: "These are all bats that can't be released for one reason or the other. They've been injured, something like that, so they're not the best specimens in the world. They're all a little gimpy, but they're loved."
For starters, Bat World Sanctuary is built in two separate habitats: one for insect-eating bats, the other, for the larger fruit bats. In total, the sanctuary houses more than a 120 winged friends.
Lollar works 18-hour days, seven days a week. She cleans the habitats, makes special food, and then, hand-feeds about 60 little ones, twice a day.
Lollar says, "I'm trying to teach them to eat from a dish, but some of them are just never going to learn and they'll have to be hand-fed the rest of their lives."
That's a big commitment, especially considering that insect bats can live up to 35 years and, in the wild, they eat 3,000 to 5,000 insects a night.
Some people might think she is a little crazy.
"A little batty?"
Lollar answers with a laugh. "Well, maybe I am," she says. "But you know, I could be knitting in front of the TV all night or I could be hand-feeding bats and this is a just a whole lot more fun."
Getting people to love bats as much as she does is one of her goals.
To a group of students, she explains, "For those of you who don't know what Bat World is, it's a sanctuary for bats that can't go back to the wild. There are basically five things that people think about bats that aren't true. They're not blind. They're not related to mice or rats. They're not all vampires. Plus, they don't try to get caught in your hair."
Her affection for their human-like characteristics is contagious.
Lollar says, "I think when people understand how beneficial bats are, how social, how intelligent they are, I think then they would go a long way toward us wanting to save them."
Through her work, Lollar has identified more than 20 different sounds these bats use to communicate.
She says, "The boys have a mating song they use to attract females. Mother bats have a noise to call their infants and their infants call back and they recognize each other's voices. So they're extremely intelligent."
And that's not all.
Lollar says, "They bring us over 450 different commercial products, and 80 different medicines."
After 13 years of working with bats, Lollar is now sought out as an authority.
A message on her answering machine said, "I badly, badly need to speak with you. I've got a puzzling bat that came in and I'm not sure what's happening with her."
Besides giving advice, Lollar also takes in injured bats from all over the country - some from individuals, some from laboratories.
Continued nursing care is part of the deal. But Bat World's primary goal is to nurse bats back to health and release them into the wild.
Lollar says, "That's the best part of doing this, giving them a second chance."
Which is exactly why Lollar bought a building in downtown Mineral Wells, a favorite roosting spot for Mexican Freetail bats, who are always very close together.
Lollar says, "They like to be warm and also for security, it's a safety factor."
One-on-one, bats are pretty cute. A colony is a bit more intimidating - But not to Lollar. She loves these guys, each and every one.
She says, "It's tremendously worth it. I wouldn't trade my life for anything in the world."
If you want to own a bat, the best thing to do is adopt one from Bat World. But be forewarned, you can't keep him at home because having a bat as a pet is illegal, Bat World stresses.
Murhphy adopted Van Gogh, one of the bats. He has a very sad little story. Some teen-age boys held a lighter up to him and burned his ear. But thanks to Lollar, he's now doing fine.
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