Locals in Australia have become concerned after over 200 "boiled" bats lost their lives during a severe heat wave. (Warning: The images below are graphic.)
A colony of flying fox bats living near Campbelltown in New South Wales has been seriously affected by the heat, which has reached up to 111.5 degrees Fahrenheit, with at least 204 of the animals -- most of them babies -- perishing in the heat wave, according to LiveScience.
"They basically boil," said the Campbelltown bat colony's manager, Kate Ryan. "It affects their brain -- their brain just fries and they become incoherent."
"I don't know how many times I bent down and got on my knees to pick up a dead baby," Ryan told the Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser. "There were dead bodies everywhere."
The gray-headed flying foxes, or Pteropus poliocephalus, are said to serve an important role as pollinators in the local ecosystem, living mostly off nectar, fruit, and pollen.
The bats are unable to control their body temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and the problem is compounded by a lack of water and shade.
"So many little lives lost due to the extreme heat and not enough canopy cover to shade them or keep them cool," wrote the volunteer group Help Save The Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown in a Facebook post. "Adults sought out shade and more shelter further up the creek resulting in many babies being left behind to deal with the heat. Many pups were on their last lot of breaths before getting much needed help by the WIRES members."
"As the dead bodies were recovered and placed in a pile for a head count the numbers had reached 200 not including the many hundreds that were still left in trees being unreachable, sadly a few adults were also included in the body count," the post read.
A spokesman for the group called the volunteers' efforts "heroic and heartbreaking," according to Fox News.
"In extremely trying conditions, they worked tirelessly to provide subcutaneous fluids to the pups that could be reached and many lives were saved," the spokesman said. "But sadly, many lives were lost too."
The recent heat wave rippling across three states in Australia has been record-breaking. On Jan. 7, Sydney suburb Penrith reached temperatures of over 117 degrees Fahrenheit, shattering previous heat records. Melbourne has also neared a heat record, reaching 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
In their Facebook post, Help Save The Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown stressed that the severe conditions could happen again.
"There were tears shed and hearts sunken, it's [devastating] when a colony like our local one goes down like this due to heat, this colony needs more canopy cover and shaded areas to help with our ever rising hot summers because this episode will surely not be the last," the group said in its post.
According to Gerald Meehl, the head of the climate change research section at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, global warming is increasing the odds of severe heat waves.
"They're occurring under the framework of background temperatures being warmer, so a naturally occurring heat wave becomes more intense," said Meehl.
Sources: LiveScience, Fox News, Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser, Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown/Facebook / Featured Image: Mike's Birds/Flickr / Embedded Images: Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown/Facebook (2)