Five months after the project began, most bats in the colony are dead. A consultant on the project now says the zoo mishandled the bats, leading to skin infections and injuries.
The zoo disputes the allegations of mishandling, saying this species has never been held in captivity before, which led to problems.
According to the zoo's Web site, Virginia big-eared bats usually live in limestone caves and old mines. Unlike other bat species, this species does not migrate; instead, the big-eared bats hibernate during the winter. Since the deadly fungus is spread from bat-to-bat contact, hibernating can threaten colonies.
The group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is accusing the zoo of "ignorance and incompetence" and asked for the bats to be removed.