Monday, June 6, 2011

Out of sight ≠ out of mind for the good folks at Bat Conservation International

Bat Conservation International logo

Bat Conservation International (BCI) is a conservation organization which has been around since 1982 conducting crucial work saving bat species globally.  In 2006 white-nose syndrome was first discovered among North American bats .  Scientists were not sure what it was at the time and it has unfortunately swept westward over the continent since then, killing nearly every bat it contact while progressing towards the Pacific.  This is a devastating catastrophe; nearly the worstNorth American wildlife disaster ever.  Consequently, BCI's work the past several years has brought a new urgency.  White-nose syndrome is currently found within nine of North America's forty-seven bat species already.  BCI funds research into white-nose syndrome's causes and cures, but they need your financial help.

Before white-nose syndrome hit North American bat populations, BCI still had their hands full.  Bats are not the most universally beloved animals.  Bats get abundant bad press, and BCI does much combating the bad press through presenting the truth concerning bats (e.g. bats are extremely beneficial since they eat massive insect quantities every night, bats are not particularly dangerous, & facts regarding bats and rabies), helps people find ways to remove and exclude bats which get into buildings, and shows them how boxes attract bats and what benefits having local bats would be.  BCI really understand the need to have people interact with nature, do an absolutely amazing job regarding dispelling bat myths and turning fears into an appreciation, and have done so over the past twenty nine years.

Besides white-nose syndrome and education, BCI is pursuing many other projects saving bats also.  BCI makes sure when public protection concerns mandate mine shafts/caves must be closed up, the shafts do not harbor active bat colonies.  If the shafts do house bat colonies, BCI adds barriers which will keep people away but will allow bats free access.  But bats don't only roost inside caves; bats also often roost under bridges and BCI provides recommended conflict minimization methods between people and bats when this occurs and fosters the situation like the positive interaction which it is.  BCI also promotes research around the planet concerning all bat biology aspects.

BCI gets my kudos.  I do not fully understand how their organization has turned around such a universally reviled creature's public image over less than three decades, but it is a monumental feat and BCI has done it brilliantly.  Their success is partly through amazing bat photographs taken by BCI's founder, Merlin Tuttle.  His photographs are phenomenal and capture their beauty perfectly.  Sometimes it just takes one person who can show others beauty like he sees it to eventually convince a whole country.  Or, like Merlin Tuttle, the people of many countries.  Bat education is not likely to be very popular, but BCI never wavers.  Hats off to Merlin Tuttle, whose bat dedication dramatically changed the way people think about bats- no mean feat.  How many of us can say we have changed the planet for the better so spectacularly?  This is definitely something BCI can claim.  But BCI needs funds and volunteers, so do help them.  And don't forget: spread the word concerning the good work BCI does also!

Aren't bats cool?  I have worked among four captive bat species (insectivorous, frugivorous, and vampire bats Desmodus rotundus!) and have found them incredibly interesting little animals, not at all like bats are portrayed within movies/television.  Working among captive bats has sent me pursuing wild bats more.  I remember my joy while watching a bat colony which lives underneath the pachyderm building at the San Francisco Zoo, the thrill when I saw pipistrelles flutter through the forest at night, and my awe when I found a roosting Kenyan bat sporting the largest ears I have ever seen.  You should experience it yourself; bat contact is an enlightening and magical experience.  This is the sort of experience which makes life vibrant.

Want to learn more about bats?  Check out these links/books:

BCI has a nice bat intro, a part about North American bats, and a part shows you where you can see bats around the planet yourself.

America's Neighborhood Bats by Merlin Tuttle
America's Neighborhood Bats by Merlin Tuttle himself is an excellent bat intro and is filled with his astonishing photographs.

bat box
The Bat Builder's Handbook by Merlin Tuttle, Mark Kiser, & Selena Kiser and published by BCI is an excellent book if you have become completely enamored by bats and now want to provide bat homes.  It provides everything you will need to get started.  If you would rather buy one already built, BCI still has you covered (it should be noted that not all bat houses which are sold will be likely to attract bats- check the Bat Builder's Handbook and see what you should look for before you buy, although ones BCI sell will obviously work well.)

bat detector
If you have moved past bat boxes and are completely head over heels, the next stage would be bat detectors, which pick up their calls (the calls are outside frequencies human ears can hear) and translate them into sounds which we can hear so you can identify flying bats through their distinctive calls.  Be warned however- this is not cheap.

Walker's Bats of the World by Ronald Nowak
Walker's Bats of the World is taken from Walker's Mammals of the World (which I also highly recommend getting if you love mammals- a brilliant set) and covers everything known regarding every bat species.  If you are really into bats, this is currently the best book covering the entire Chiroptera order.

Got all those books and want to get REALLY into bats?  Check these out:

Bat Ecology by Thomas Kunz and Brock Fenton
Bat Ecology by Thomas Kunz & M. Brock Fenton will take you up a level in understanding bats, their roles among their environments, and how the bats interact with their environments.

Vampire Bat: A Field Study in Behavior and Ecology by Dennis Turner
The Vampire Bat: A Field Study in Behavior and Ecology by Dennis Turner goes deep into the feared vampire bat's life, by a man who studied them and gives details concerning what these near-mythic animals are really like.

Short-tailed Fruit Bat: A Study in Plant-Animal Interactions by Thomas Fleming
The Short-tailed Fruit Bat: A Study in Plant-Animal Interactions by Theodore Fleming gives a similar treatment concerning one bat which eats fruit, not blood.

Ecological and Behavioral Methods for the Study of Bats by Thomas Kunz and Stuart Parsons
Ecological and Behavioral Methods for the Study of Bats by Thomas Kunz & Stuart Parsons is for the bat researcher and details everything you need to know regarding studying bats.  This book would definitely be for you only if you have become completely fixated on bats (or, obviously, if you're studying them.)
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