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, 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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fabulous and fluorescent bats! Global Year of the Bat partners on board

After a short hibernation break in the Netherlands, Germany and the US, the Year of the Bat team is back in Bonn and is delighted to announce our new campaign partners. We warmly welcome both the IUCN SSC Bat Specialist Group (BSG) and Lubee Bat Conservancy to the Year of the Bat's founding partnership circle. 

We are also thrilled to add several new national partners to the growing Year of the Bat global partner network:
Enthusiasm for Year of the Bat is especially strong in Latin America, which raises the bar on bat conservation in the region. The Year of the Bat has in fact been receiving messages from governments, bat organizations and bat fans all around the globe... Argentina, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Mexico, Myanmar, South Africa, Pakistan, the US and Venezuela, among other hot spots! Not to mention Asian, Eurasian and European countries from Azerbaijan to Japan and Romania to the UK.

In other news, a few amazing looking new bat species were recently in the spotlight. Check out the Star Wars' "Yoda bat" of Papua New Guinea with its glowing yellow ears, eyes and nose and the 100 gram flaming orange bat discovered by a young boy in a Sri Lankan village. Be sure to click on the article links to see these unbelievable images. (And thanks to our CMS colleagues who brought these beauties to our attention.)

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

If you have some interesting bat news to report or discover a film star bat in your backyard, drop us a line at yearofthebat@eurobats.org!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

‘Year of the Bat’ gives wings to world’s only flying mammals

The Year of the Bat 2011-2012 campaign has kicked off today in Prague!
Backed by the United Nations Environment Programme, the campaign is led by the UN’s Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS).  
Year of the Bat will draw attention to the world’s 1100 bat species – around half of which are currently at risk. 
Charismatic animals like gorillas, tigers and elephants are often in the public eye. But many people are blind to the facts about bats. Bats can be beautiful, too, as the campaign will demonstrate during its two-year celebration.
Performing eco-services such as pollination, seed dispersal and insect control, mythical bats fly through the night almost everywhere on Earth.
Bats help sustain temperate forests throughout the world. They also replenish our treasured tropical rainforests. Aside from the forest, you will find bats in deserts, cities, mountains and seasides - everywhere but the Arctic and Antarctic, in fact.
Did you know that many delicious fruits and vegetables would not exist without bats? The next time you bite into a banana, peach, avocado, mango or fig, please thank the small and unappreciated bat who scattered the seeds or fertilized these flowering plants.

© Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International, www.batcon.org
The Year of the Bat will promote bat conservation, research and education, with a special focus on biodiversity and the ecological benefits that bats provide. 
To learn more, visit the Year of the Bat website, http://yearofthebat.org/ - and check back soon for more fun facts about bats!