Welcome to Year of the Bat 2011 - 2012

Year of the Bat is sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS). Please join us today in promoting bat conservation, research and education around the globe.

Friday, February 18, 2011

All together now: Year of the Bat 2011 - 2012

Year of the Bat continues to fly high in Latin America! In addition to RELCOM's extensive network and our original partners in Panama, Columbia and Argentina, Year of the Bat is pleased to welcomed to welcome new partner organziations in Bolivia, Mexico and Brazil.

In these days of globalization, when all are concerned about global climate change, transgenic organisms, and violence, it is important to get back into reality and in contact with the natural world. Bats, the cosmopolitan group of flying mammals that is also the most ecologically and morphologically diverse mammalian order, provide a wonderful opportunity to integrate all humans around the planet in a global effort to protect and recover biological diversity, as well as to educate the world’s population about these extraordinary animals that have very deep, crucial links to our well-being and contribute significantly to a high-quality standard of living. No other group of animals is so unfairly treated in the world, given their very beneficial impact on both natural ecosystems and human life.

© Nick Edards
It is here, in the context of the mistreatment of bats and their unjustified destruction around the world, that our influence and actions as bat professionals and bat conservationists are most urgently needed. Many of us have been working hard for up to several decades to protect bats. It is now, with the platform of the Year of the Bat, that we all finally have the opportunity to join forces across countries, continents, and species, together with other individuals and organizations who share our concern, our passion, and our goals.

This initiative is opening doors and crystallizing efforts around the world. In September 2010, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species and the Agreement of the Conservation of Populations of European Bats launched Year of the Bat 2011 - 2012. The global awareness-raising species campaign, which is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme, will promote bat conservation, research and education about the world’s only flying mammals.  With the backing of founding campaign partners including Bat Conservation International, the Lubee Bat Conservancy and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Year of the Bat will focus public attention on the key role bats play in global eco-systems, such as rainforests.

© Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International, www.batcon.org
With regional partners in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, Latin America and Africa, the Year of the Bat will also address misperceptions about bats and encourage organizations, governments and individuals to get involved in bat conservation efforts. The Year of the Bat is pleased to have the support of RELCOM as a strategic partner for the campaign. Partners are also already planning Year of the Bat activities in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Panamá, Venezuela, and many other countries.Other regions in the world are similarly working to promote the conservation of bats. Through information exchange, cross-continent collaboration, and integrated global efforts, our success to protect bats and improve their image will surely be achieved. We have a golden opportunity to act as a team, help bats, and have a decisive positive impact on behalf of bats. As you consider what your activities will be for Year of the Bat, some options may include:
  • Offering courses and workshops on bat ecology, conservation, rehabilitation
  • Printing posters, children’s storybooks, stickers, fieldguides
  • Giving lectures, visiting schools, talking to decision makers about the need to incorporate bats into management plans and other conservation actions.
Many more actions can and certainly will be carried out. We have a chance to make the Year of the Bat into the turning point we have all been fighting and working for for decades. It is waiting for us around the corner. Let’s work all together now.
Reprinted in English from the Latin American Network for Bat Conservation (RELCOM) autumn 2010 bulletin. To read the original article and other RELCOM news in Spanish, please visit the Year of the Bat website. Many thanks to Year of the Bat Ambassador Dr. Rodrigo Medellin for highlighting the beneficial impact of bats and the opportunity to join hands across borders to bring new attention to bats and act now for bat conservation.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Australia’s Baby Bats: All Wrapped Up

Year of the Bat is happy to hear that the Gold Coast baby bats rescued by the Australian Bat Clinic and Wildlife Trauma Centre in Advancetown are all wrapped up in tiny bat blankets and are doing well, thanks to the constant care of dedicated bat rescue workers. The little flying foxes will be bottle fed in special intensive care units – or will be ‘hanging out’ on clothes lines - until they are able to fly again in about 4 weeks.

The orphaned flying foxes even got a little limelight in the US, on NBC’s nightly news.

Despite this upbeat note, you can’t turn on the TV today without seeing the dire images of the swaths of Australia devastated by unprecedented floods and rising water levels, which have caused loss of life and massive destruction to livelihood, property and the natural environment. With reports of flooding covering an area the combined size of Germany and France, Australia’s inhabitants and the habitat cannot escape the aftermath of disruption and loss. Bats are a natural barometer to what is going on in the environment and they are sadly not immune to the effects of natural disasters.

Back in March 2010, flooding in Queensland had already caused a huge displacement of the nationally threatened species of flying foxes, with a large number travelling down south to Yarra Bend in Melbourne. The heavy rains had affected the blossoms on which they normally feed.

Just before Christmas, flying foxes were dealt another unfavourable hand with a few of the Bat Clinic’s flying fox camps being hit hard by one of the storms. Unfortunately, hundreds of the Grey headed flying fox Ptreopus poliocephalus were lost, but dedicated staff at Trish Wimberley’s Bat Clinic were feeding 140 baby bats around the clock. The Clinic organized a New Year’s masquerade ball to raise funds to help the babies progress from needing to be nursed to eating fruit.
Flying fox babies awake from sleep at the Wimberley Rehabiliation Clinic. Note receiving
blankets and pacifiers.
  ©Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International,  
The recent flooding in Australia - to mention nothing of Brazil - has been catastrophic for families, communities, farmers and wildlife. Among the wildlife populations affected, bats have also unfortunately been caught in the struggle for survival. According to a January 7th Daily Mail report, the Australian Bat Clinic and Wildlife Trauma Centre have helped 130 orphaned bats on the Gold Coast. Due to the disruption of their food sources, bats are having to feed on the ground, making them much more vulnerable. Bat Clinic carers found four-week-old babies on the ground, covered in maggots and fly eggs, in several bat ‘camps.’ The clinic’s team is now providing the surviving babies with 24-hour care until they can spread their wings and fly again.

The Year of the Bat thanks those bat workers and also sends our well wishes to all the people affected by the flooding. Our hearts go out to the families who have lost so much. We wish everyone courage through this crisis and are confident that the resilient Australian people and the country’s exceptional flora and fauna will come back even stronger.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Bats of Napa

We all know, now that Year of the Bat is underway, that our industrious fly-by-night bats pollinate fruits and flowers that we enjoy - and help bring us that most famous of fiery liquids, Tequila. But who would have thought that bats and bat conservation may soon be seen as essential to holistic viticulture?

Napa Valley - photo courtesy of www.pachd.com

The trend-setting California is leading the way, with numerous Napa Valley vineyards incorporating insect-eating bats into sustainable farming practices. Doug Shafer of Shafer Vineyards, home of the award-winning Shafer Cabernet, puts it this way: “You can spray powerful chemicals to rid your vines of these particular insects, but we prefer to rely on the natural eating habits of songbirds and bats.” 

Representatives of the local Audubon Society say that the use of bats, owls and songbirds as part of sustainable farming on Napa Valley wineries is "seriously on the rise." One of Sonoma's largest bat colonies is resident at Russian River Vineyards, more than 1,000 strong. Visitors and neighbors enjoy the twilight eco-attraction of dinner, wine and watching thousands of bats take to the skies in search of insect prey. After this nightly eco-service of bats, vineyard owners witness a strong decrease of insects that chew down precious vines. A good bat-feast definitely paves the way for a biodynamic wine.

Along with their eco-tourist value, bats never cease to perform nightly insect patrol at Shafer, Russian River, Frog's Leap and other Napa wineries that harvest "the world's most celebrated grapes." Years ago, a fashionable vineyard strived for the "stripped down" look: rows and rows of vines, but no grass, no weeds or no signs of wildlife. Today, vintners are even "partnering" with owls, songbirds, hawks and bats to cultivate their vineyards and vintages. Bat boxes are a frequent sight on Napa vineyards. Some wineries are even setting aside unharvested land to preserve and encourage wildlife. (A "wildlife consultant" can now make a good living in the famed Napa region!)

 Napa Valley - photo courtesy of www.pachd.com

So the next time you uncork a bottle of Napa, new world or organic wine, give a toast to bats. Et alors? Any other vineyard takers? We've heard that rose in on the rise in France, so maybe other changes are in the air, as well. If French wine-makers want to follow their Napa friends by welcoming more bats to the terroir, Year of the Bat is all for it.  

Friday, December 10, 2010

Beauty or the Beast?

You may think that not many bats are auditioning to grace the pages of Vogue magazine or National Geographic. But you would be wrong. Just as we regularly take stock of what constitutes beauty or brains in modern society, so should we reassess how to evaluate or present certain species, including bats, to the public at large. Remember the wholesome models of the 1970s or the athletic cover girls of the '80s? And the stick thin toothpicks of the ’90s? Recall what happened when the glossy promotion of an anorexic ideal was deemed dangerous to a generation of girls:  the pendulum swung back again toward more voluptuous and realistic superstars. Tastes can change, especially when informed by knowledge or empathy.

Why is this important to the conservation dialogue, you ask? Well, just the other day, New York University’s Scienceline proposed that zoos are the Ritz Carltons and Aman resorts for many animal species, where only the rich and beautiful wildlife can check in. The article Ugly Animals Need Love Too tells us that if an animal is large, cute, human-like or colorful... he’s in! But the motley crew of ugly yet endangered animals are often given a pass.   
Brutish or beastly?
© Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International, http://www.batcon.org/
It’s true that zoos must negotiate a difficult balance between conservation and profit – and showcasing the sexier beasts can generate funds to care for less charismatic creatures.

But are there “just some animals we may never love”... like bats? We think not. The common perception of bats is that they are dark, ugly, spooky... even dirty! No one could love a bat like that, except on Halloween.

Did you know that bats spend a large portion of time grooming themselves every day, like cats? That the dreaded vampire bat often adopts orphan bat pups? Or that a mother bat can pick out her own baby pup, after a night flight to forage for food, in a maternity roost of thousands of bats? And while insect-eating microbats are not the most likely beauty pageant queens, megabats – also known as fruit bats or flying foxes – are quite sympathetic-looking creatures. Some have even called these bats adorable, cute, striking and, dare we say it, beautiful.  (If you’re still not convinced, take a look at the Year of the Bat image gallery or throw a glance at the “gentle fliers of the African night,” as photographed by our own campaign ambassador, Merlin Tuttle.)
Soft and sweet? © Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International,
If you ever have the chance to watch a colony of bats take to the skies at sunset, it’s truly a spectacular sight. And if you also think about the key role that bats play in our environment as pollinators, seed dispersers and insect eaters, you might realize that bats have been given a bad rap, both on the beauty scene and as contributors to our well-being.
Love a bat today
© Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International, http://www.batcon.org/
So take the time to learn a bit more about bats. You just might discover that, like humans, bats are complex, captivating creatures - and infinitely lovable.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Vielen Dank, merci beaucoup, gracias: On Thanksgiving give thanks to bats

© Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International, http://www.batcon.org/

This Thanksgiving holiday - a traditional American celebration - say thank you not only to our increasingly threatened bats in the US, but to all the bats around the world that help bring us fresh fruit and beautiful smelling flowers. Have we told you before that over 300 plant species rely on bats for pollination and seed dispersal? Although bats did not make your pumpkin pie today, they do help bring you bananas, peaches, mangoes, guavas, carob, avocados, cashews, dates, figs and other exotic fruit to chew on.

Why else should we thank bats? Bats' role in insect control not only helps farmers and protects crops; bats help keep disease at bay by decreasing mosquito populations. Viral diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, including West Nile virus, malaria and yellow fever, are severe and life-threatening. Malaria, for example, infects between 200-300 million people annually worldwide, with up to 1 million fatalities per year, most of these young children in sub-Saharan Africa.

And if that's not enough to be thankful for, bat research is proving fruitful in many fields. Scientists are studying bats to learn more about their language, echolocation skills, flight abilities and other unique characteristics. This research could one day yield new medicines, help design controls for unmanned aircraft and much more. To learn about new scientific discoveries related to bats, visit the
Year of the Bat science page.

And to find more reasons to give thanks to bats, check out these links - Give thanks to bats! They are the most misunderstood mammals and When you see a bat give thanks.

And thank you to all the bat lovers, conservations and researchers who put bats in the spotlight. Happy Thanksgiving... and don't forget to keep your eyes open at dawn and dusk for bats winging their way through our holiday sky. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Eviction Notice Down Under: Sydney's Flying Foxes

As ABC TV in Australia reported earlier this year, "Now is not a good time to be a Flying Fox."

The grey-headed Flying-Fox, which is listed as vulnerable under Australia's Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, may soon be facing eviction from Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens. 

A growing colony of flying foxes has made its home in Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens for nearly a century. Although flying foxes have been present in the Gardens since the 1920s, the camp increased dramatically in size during the 1990s, echoing the "urbanization" of bats in Australia's metropolitan areas. The up to 22,000 flying foxes delight tourists who visit the Botanic Gardens, but are slowly damaging some the Garden's heritage trees.

The Botanic Gardens Trust was granted permission by the Australian government to "relocate" the Flying Foxes this year using noise disturbance and other methods, similar to a flying fox relocation from Melbourne's Botanic Gardens in 2003. But due to issues raised regarding potential harassment and sleep deprivation, interference with flying fox breeding and roosting patterns, and lack of nearby appropriate resettlement locations, the Botanic Gardens has postponed the flying fox relocation until May-June 2011, while it conducts extensive research and monitoring. 

A coalition of animal welfare groups, including the Humane Society International in Australia, animal rescue group WIRES and several bat conservation organizations, has raised concerns that the proposed relocation plan poses a number of risks to the flying fox colony. 

The Humane Society also reports that the grey-headed flying-fox is in decline in Australia and internationally: "The decline is so extreme that the species could be extinct in around 80 years unless an effective recovery plan is implemented." 

Today and tomorrow, the Australian court will hear arguments from both sides. Until a decision is handed down, Sydney's grey-headed Flying Fox will remain an unwanted tenant in its chosen habitat "down under."

Listen to the original ABC report here.

With the focus on flying foxes today, the Year of the Bat welcomes two new national partners, Australasian Bat Society and Bat Advocacy, Australia. Glad to have you on board, mates! (And special thanks to Nick Edards for his insight into the flying fox case.)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

North American bat research symposium gives Year of the Bat extra boost

Dear Year of the Bat friends and supporters,

Greetings from Denver International Airport, from where I am writing to you on my way back to Year of the Bat headquarters.

On short notice and in order to promote Year of the Bat, I attended the 40th annual symposium of the North American Society for Bat Research (NASBR) that took place this week in Denver, Colorado. And the response that Year of the Bat received there was overwhelmingly positive. In the coming days, we will be able to announce new Year of the Bat partners from both the government and NGO sides.

What I am very happy to announce already is that the NASBR Board of Directors agreed on the spot for NASBR to become an official Year of the Bat partner.

A heartfelt welcome to Year of the Bat, NASBR!

Other great news... in the presence of our first Honorary Ambassador, Dr. Merlin D. Tuttle, I had the great pleasure to announce on behalf of EUROBATS and my dear colleague, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of UNEP/CMS, two new Honorary Ambassadors for Year of the Bat: Prof. Paul Racey (UK) and Dr. Rodrigo A. Medellin (Mexico), both outstanding and well known experts in international conservation and research.

Pictures and detailed information will soon be posted on the Year of the Bat website.

Stay tuned, dear readers, Year of the Bat keeps on rocking!

Thank you all for your continued support,

Andreas Streit
Executive Secretary