Irish nurse opens 'bat hospital', insisting creatures are being unfairly 'villainised' by Covid-19
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Irish nurse opens 'bat hospital', insisting creatures are being unfairly 'villainised' by Covid-19

BATS have had some bad press lately owing to scientific speculation linking the nocturnal creatures to the origins of coronavirus.

Susan Kerwin, founder of Bat Rehabilitation Ireland, runs Ireland's only bat hospital from her back garden in Bruree, Co. Limerick.

She's a staunch defender of the small warm-blooded mammals, and told RTÉ's Countrywide that bats are being unfairly smeared by the pandemic.

"Bats have been villainised as the carriers and spreaders of Covid but the majority of people who contact me are extremely positive about bats," Ms Kerwin said.

"I have about 30 bats at the moment, but I had 158 bats until the start of January and they all came in from people who wanted to help them."

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A recent arrival at the sanctuary has been a Saprano Pipistrelle - the smallest bat species in Ireland - weighing just shy of 4mg.

"He was found by a woman in her garage in Cork after her cat pulled him out of his hibernation," said Ms Kerwin.

"We feed bats mealworms when they come in, they are very high in protein and fat. We also use a special recovery food, designed for cats and dogs, but it works quite well for the bats too.

"Each one of these tiny pipistrelles can eat up to 3,000 insects a night."

"We are also looking after a Leisler's bat this is largest species of bat in Ireland", she added.

Once Ms Kerwin has restored the bats to full health, they are returned to the wild.

When "they begin to wake up from hibernating around March or April, we move them out to the bat boxes so they get used to roosting again.

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"Once they start building up their strength and foraging for themselves, the next step is to release them to where they came from."

Susan confided that her passion for bats followed a diagnosis of cervical cancer 14 years ago, when she was only 27 years old.

"As a single parent and the mother of two small boys, it was my worst nightmare.

"I found night-time very difficult and I was not sleeping. I noticed the bats flying around the trees and streetlights and I became fascinated by them.

"Giving an animal a second chance is an amazing feeling because after surviving cancer, it feels like I also got a second chance."