By Kim Hoskins
Retirement usually means freedom from schedules, no job worries, and being able to travel to exotic places. But not always. In fact, for one famous bat that is now retired, being fed at consistent times, being "on-call" for an occasional appearance, and not gathering any frequent traveler miles seems to suit him just fine.
During a 1984 trip to Kenya, Merlin Tuttle captured several mature straw-colored fruit bats (Eidolon helvum), which he brought home with him to the United States. One of these, Zuri, quickly became a world-renowned "ambatsador." For nearly a decade, he appeared at school programs, lectures, and media events, and on news programs and even "The Tonight Show" and "The Late
Show with David Letterman." His appearances did much to dispel myths about bats and inform people of the important role bats play in a healthy environment.
But after many changed attitudes and many miles, Zuri earned a well- deserved rest. Through mutual collaboration, BCI and the San Antonio Zoo in Texas agreed that Zuri should retire from active duty. Although retired, he could continue to serve as a valuable teaching resource.
After his arrival at the zoo in 1993, Zuri was housed with tropical birds in the Hixon Bird House. He was content, but the birds did not appreciate his eating their food and trying to hook them as they flew by. For the past year and a half he has resided in the Children's Zoo nursery complex. Since retirement, Zuri has appeared in only one outside performance, a segment of the Satellite-in-the-Classroom television program "World of the Wild." Otherwise, Zuri has adjusted to his life off the road. He remains a pampered and much-loved attraction for the children of San Antonio, and we hope he will be with the zoo for many years.
Kim Hoskins is a longtime BCI member and an education specialist at the San Antonio Zoo. Zuri is one of several "PR" animals she uses in presentations to zoo visitors.
Zuri with Merlin Tuttle