Zookeepers have been hand-raising one of the new additions, whose mother died just weeks after giving birth

3 Endangered Rodrigues Fruit Bat Babies
Credit: Oregon Zoo

Three endangered bat babies are now calling the Oregon Zoo home.

On Thursday, the West Coast facility announced in a statement that a group of Rodrigues flying foxes — also known as Rodrigues fruit bats — were recently born at the zoo.

According to the zoo, the endangered species is native only to Rodrigues, which is a tiny island in the Indian Ocean about 900 miles east of Madagascar. There, the animal "plays an important ecological role on the island."

By the 1970s, much of the species' habitat had been cleared by humans, and after a cyclone hit the island in 1979, fewer than 100 of the animals remained in the wild, making it the rarest bat in the world, the zoo added.

Today, zoo officials say the animal's population has increased to around 20,000, due to more than four decades of conservation efforts.

Keepers at the zoo said that the new arrivals are not only "adorable," but are also proof that humans can have both positive and negative effects on wildlife conservation.

"Each new arrival is significant for this species," said Amy Cutting, who oversees the zoo's bat area. "Forty years ago, Rodrigues flying foxes were at the very brink of extinction. The fact that they're still around shows how people can make a difference for wildlife."

The Oregon Zoo began housing "Rods" — the name the animal is given in zoological circles, per the zoo — in 1994. The facility has raised over 50 "Rods" since then and has sent some of the animals on to other zoos as well.

"Keeping a healthy insurance population in zoos is especially important for this species," Cutting said. "With so few left and such a limited geographic range, a severe weather event on their island could essentially wipe them out."

The zoo's "bat cave," as described by the facility, is temporarily closed to guests, but staff has continued to care daily for the animals. Cutting added that keepers have been hand-raising one of the new bat babies because their mother died just weeks after giving birth.