Some animals have a bad reputation. Bats are definitely one species that fall into this category despite sparking tremendous interest in both kids and adults alike. Here at Now You Know, October’s topic of the month – Animals That Scare Us– comes right in time for Halloween. We will talk about animals that are considered to be spooky, bothersome, or even disgusting.
This week we kick it off with an interview with Rob Laidlaw, children’s author and founder of Zoocheck, who tells us all about bats, the variety of species present in habitats around the world, and how essential these animals are for a healthy environment.
Why are bats so cool? For a wide array of reasons, Laidlaw explains, as he learned so himself through his bat cave explorations and while writing his latest book about the fascinating creatures. First, he points out the impressive numbers and diversity of bats around the globe – comprising 1/5 of all mammal species. Next, he explains how they inhabit all kinds of territories, not only caves as is the common perception, and how they feed on insects and forage in fields and mountains at night.
Laidlaw explains how bats can be found on most continents as some of them can migrate and others even hibernate in Northern climates, and he emphasizes, even though we rarely stop and think about it, bats do play a very important role in a variety of ecosystems. Fruit bats are among the most important seed dispersers in the tropics; also, bats are generally very important pollinators throughout the world, as many plant species have actually co-evolved with them, as well as for pollination for commercially produced crops that people value. Bats are also one of the primary consumers of nighttime insects – which is a very good benefit in agriculture in some areas, and are a very important component insofar as whole biological systems depend on them. Bats also serve as a food source for other larger animals.
“In researching my book it just blew my mind… the diversity of bats, the roles they play in the ecologies in which they live around the world, the adaptations they have, the things they do, the intelligence that they possess, the life spans that are longer than anyone would expect, there is just so much about bats that is just so amazing!” – Rob Laidlaw.
Laidlaw challenges common beliefs and opens new perspectives that we should think more about, such as why bats should be protected, instead of being feared. Being the only mammals capable of true flight, bats should be recognized for their amazing intelligence, impressive longevity and social lives, and their eyesight (because no, bats are not blind!). Laidlaw indeed expresses his amazement with the species’ space navigation capabilities and how likeable and harmless they actually are, on top of being beneficial for the environment. He deplores that bats in particular are facing all kinds of threats: they are often killed as pests because people simply don’t like them. They are also being decimated by diseases such as white nose syndrome and are being displaced by habitat destruction, wind turbines and humans disturbing their natural environments. He adds on a few tips on how to learn more about them, without disturbing their living quarters.
Now you know!
Be part of the change!
- If you find a bat in your house, never chase or try to catch it – learn how to let the bat escape safely. Be gentle as they’re very fragile. And no, they will not get caught in your hair!
- Bats are super cute and very social animals, capable of developing relationships with human caretakers. They are not dangerous and don’t need to be feared.
- Don’t visit bats in zoos, as they are not well-suited to captive environments. They may be kept for rehabilitation purposes in a sanctuary or conservation area, but only for a very good reason. They are wide-ranging and fly hundreds of kilometers, and zoos can’t provide the space or the conditions that they naturally experience in the wild.
- Entering caves or old buildings is not recommended and can be dangerous for the bats.
- If you want to learn more about bats, visit conservation centres that offer bat walks in the summertime at dusk, or in caves or bat houses that have been constructed and where tours are organized to watch them emerge at night. There are many opportunities if you want to see and learn more about them, without destroying their habitats.
- Talk to policy makers in favour of bat protection, as government agencies need your reinforcement towards their efforts to save bats.
- Help us spread the word by sharing this podcast in your network!
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Kathryn, Gen and the Now You Know team.