What is Your Favorite Animal?
Bats are one of our favorite animals and there are so many interesting bat facts. The world’s only flying mammal? Yep. And their size? They range from the bumblebee bat (weighing less than 0.07 oz. and measuring only 1 inch) to the giant golden-crowned flying fox with a wingspan of over 6 feet. They are either categorized as microbats eating mostly insects or megabats (also known as flying foxes) eating mostly fruit.
But why should we care about them? Critical to our environment, bats pollinate over 500 tropical plants used for food and medicine. They help biodiversity by dispersing seeds through the forest. Think about mangoes, agave (the main ingredient in tequila), avocados, cocoa and bananas-all pollinated by these wonderful mammals. With their voracity for mosquitos (one bat can eat 1,000 in a night) and appetite for other insects including many that damage crops, we see why they are so vital to our ecosystem.
And they are just so cool. In addition to their aerobatic skills, they are very fleet of wing (or fast!). A study (Nov 2016) just clocked a bat traveling 100 mph. With over 1200 species, they make up 20% of all mammals in the world. But many species are being decimated from White-Nose Syndrome (a lethal fungus with no known cure). They are also impacted by climate change, destruction of habitat, indiscriminate killing based on superstitions or misconceptions and one of the biggest killers, wind turbines.
Both of us has grown to love bats over the years. We have seen them all over the world, most recently in Costa Rica on our honeymoon where they live in palm fronds and in Dominica where we entered a sea cave to observe a very large bat colony.
Dale has carved sculptures of both microbats and flying foxes. His sculptures are definitely some of our favorites. “Cliff Hanger” recently sold and 100% of the proceeds were donated to 2 bat organizations, one of which was Bat World Sanctuary who helped save bats in Houston after Hurricane Harvey.
What Can We do to Help Bats?
First, learn all we can to reduce chiroptophobia which is the fear of bats (and a very cool word). Many people fear them because they worry about rabies and blood-sucking vampire bats. But less than 1% carry rabies and only 3 species (all in Latin America) suck blood and rarely from humans.
Second, have fun and build or buy bat houses for your yard (think of bats as free, nontoxic pest control). Help save bat habitat in your community by planting bat-friendly gardens, avoid disturbing them in their natural habitat which often includes caves, get involved in a local conservation group that protects bats or most important, share your knowledge.