The Year Of The Bat

Statement by Dr. Merlin Tuttle regarding Year of the Bat Celebration

I’m delighted to serve as Honorary Ambassador for the 2011-2012 Year of the Bat campaign and wish the very best of success to all who participate. Education regarding the essential roles of bats in maintaining healthy ecosystems and human economies has never been more important. Bats are found nearly everywhere and approximately 1,200 species account for almost a quarter of all mammals. Nevertheless, in recent decades their populations have declined alarmingly. Many are now endangered, though they provide invaluable services that we cannot afford to lose.

Simply because they are active only at night and difficult to observe and understand, bats rank among our planet’s most misunderstood and intensely persecuted mammals. Those that eat insects are primary predators of the vast numbers that fly at night, including ones that cost farmers and foresters billions of dollars in losses annually. As such bats decline, demands for dangerous pesticides grow, as does the cost of growing crops like rice, corn and cotton.

Fruit and nectar-eating bats are equally important in maintaining whole ecosystems of plant life. In fact, their seed dispersal and pollination services are crucial to the regeneration of rain forests which are the lungs and rain makers of our planet.

Many of the plants which depend on such bats are additionally of great economic value, their products ranging from timber and tequila to fruits, spices, nuts and even natural pesticides.

Scary media stories notwithstanding, bats are remarkably safe allies. Where I live, in Austin, Texas, 1.5 million bats live in crevices beneath a single downtown bridge. When they began moving in, public health officials warned that they were diseased and dangerous–potential attackers of humans. Yet, through Bat Conservation International, we educated people to simply not handle them, and 30 years later, not a single person has been attacked or contracted a disease. Fear has been replaced by love as these bats catch 15 metric tons of insects nightly and attract 12 million tourist dollars each summer.

It is now well demonstrated that people and bats can share even our cities at great mutual benefit. As we will show through varied Year of the Bat activities, bats are much more than essential. They’re incredibly fascinating, delightfully likeable masters of our night skies.

10 thoughts on “The Year Of The Bat

  1. Have my bat house already to install! My daughter did her Master’s work in Delaware, studying the positive effects of bats on farmer’s crops. Crops on forest perimeters close to bat habitat had less bug infestations, etc., as a result of the bats doing their job in ridding the area of bug pests. YAAY FOR BATS!!! Love ’em!

  2. There’s been an interesting article in The Daily Telegraph today about attempts to build bat ‘bridges’ to help them cross busy roads (I kid you not) – sadly despite significant investment they have not worked. If I can find a link to the story will post it for you.

  3. katiepede says:

    I once accidentally hit a bat with my car..:-( I was very sad, but I picked it up and took it home. It was a long brown eared bat…. I noticed it was still alive, but stunned. I took him home and placed him somewhere under cover, but so it could fly away if wished. In the morning it had crawled up and turned upside down. I took him to an animal santuary, who gave him bat flying lessons and fed him up. I rang every day to see how he was getting on. After a week they gave me him back in a pillow case one evening. I was to warm him near the heater in my car and release him near to where I hit him. I then set him free and he flew into a nearby tree…. 😀

  4. holly says:

    Hello. We have recently launched a nonprofit initiative to raise funds solely for white-nose syndrome research and conservation efforts, thru donations and the sale of batstuff.
    We need the support of all those who appreciate and value bats. Please visit http://fightwns.org
    Thank you

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