The United Nations has declared that 2012 is the International Year of the Bat. What does that even mean? The main purpose of Year of the Bat is to raise awareness and appreciation for bats all over the world.
The Year of the Bat is a two yearlong global species awareness initiative undertaken by The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and The Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS).
Did you know that bats are found on every continent except for Antarctica? Bats are amazing and unique animals and with over 1200 different species we have a lot to celebrate. They specialize in controlling insect populations that we regard as pests to our crops and comfort, they pollinate flowers, they disperse seeds in rainforests and they specialize in being awesome. They are essential to balancing ecosystems.
I could really go on and on about how incredible bats are and how much I love them, but let’s look at some things that YOU can do to celebrate the Year of the Bat!
- Dedicate your life to raising awareness about bats and conservation.
Ok…. well, maybe we should start easy, but feel free to make that one happen.
- Learn about the bats in your area.
Do you know how many different types of bats live in your region? Do you know what they look like? What they eat? Where they live? When to see them flying around and know that it’s a bat and not a bird?
Take some time to enjoy the night sky. Those of us in the colder regions will have to wait until spring to see the bats flying about again, but that gives you time to read up and browse some images of bats you may have munching on insects in your neighborhood. Below is a bat found throughout much of North American, the hoary bat. We caught/released this one back in 2009 in the NC/TN region.
In Michigan we have 9 different kinds of bats. Those of us in Detroit- the Big Brown Bat is our most common species around here. Respect and love this bat, especially the urban gardeners and farmers- they are eating LOTS of your crop pests and their guano is very high in nitrogen. Do you have a bat house?
- Put up a bat house or three.
It doesn’t matter if you live in an urban, suburban or rural area, bats will benefit from a bat house. You can build your own or buy one from the Organization from Bat Conservation (OBC) that directly supports bat conservation and that has been designed and researched to the needs of bats.
For those of you that don’t know me, I’ve been working with OBC for the past five years (minus the times they let me leave to work in the field and travel around). Since I’ve been back, I’ve been spending a lot of time adding bat house content to their website so rather than rewriting everything here, please check out the information on OBC’s website. Find out the importance of bat houses, how and where to attach them, instructions on how to build your own and more.
- Attend an event near you!
For those of you around Michigan, we are hosting a lot of bat events this year, including our Annual Great Lakes Bat Festival in September and this year it’s FREE! We also have some other awesome bat celebration events and you can visit the Bat Zone any weekend to learn about and meet bats. Some of my favorite animals (human and non-human) live or spend a lot of time at the Bat Zone. Perhaps I’ll add a new post all about this soon.
The Year of the Bat website also has a list of events going on around the world as well, keep checking back as they regularly add to them.
- Create your own event!
Host a free or fundraising event offering information and facts about bats such as a potluck, art auction, bat viewing night in the park, bike ride, punk rock show… the options are endless. And you can get free promo material at Year of the Bat as well for your event.
- Donate to bat conservation.
- Spread the word!
There are a lot of myths about bats and just straight up false information going around that is hurting the conservation of bats. White-nose Syndrome is devastating and killing millions of bats- we don’t need to add phobias based on false pretenses to their cause of death and misunderstanding. They need all the help they can get, so post on your blog, twitter, social media site about Year of the Bat, share a fun fact about bats in your area or anywhere in the world!
The bats need you and we need them so let’s celebrate 2012 Year of the Bat this year and every year.