Please Don't "Bat" an Eye:
In 2006, an explorer happened to be photographing hibernating bats in a cave about 40 miles west of Albany, New York, when he noticed an unusual white substance on and around their noses. The cave explorer also happened to notice several dead bats on the floor of the cave that had the same white substance on their noses. Thinking this was unusual, he continued to investigate by returning the next year. He noticed the same white substance on the noses of bats in the cave that were acting erratically. After the discovery of a few hundred dead bats in several other caves that same year, biologists from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation were able to document what is now known as the deadly White Nose Syndrome (WNS).
White Nose Syndrome, so called because of the obvious white fungus growing on noses, wings, ears and tails of the most seriously infected bats, is a cold-loving, white fungus (Geomyces destructans) that has killed more than one million bats to date since its discovery in 2007. When a bat becomes infected with WNS, it wakes from hibernation much earlier than it should, and begins to use its stored fat reserves needed to get through the winter. Infected bats often are observed with extremely low body fat, and are seen flying around midwinter during the day, which eventually leads to their death from freezing to death or dying of starvation. One would think that bats could find a food source, but the insects that they feed upon are not available during the day in cold winter weather. The erratic behavior displayed by infected bats also may lead to accidental injuries with wounds that never properly heal, causing the bat to die.
This new disease is rapidly spreading across the eastern United States (Maryland, Tennessee, and Missouri) and has also moved into Canada. Currently, WNS is officially documented in 19 states and four Canadian provinces. The winter of 2010 saw the rapid spread of WNS over a 450-mile radius. According to biologists, "WNS has caused the most precipitous (dangerously high) decline of North American bats in the past century." Biologists believe that WNS is mainly transmitted from bat to bat but, there is evidence that humans may unknowingly carry WNS from infected sites to clean sites. Bat World Sanctuary and BCI have grown into a team of more than 30 scientists, educators and support staff, all of whom are working to understand and stop WNS, with hopes of eventually restoring bat populations.
Declining U.S. Bat Population (rebroadcast)
The Diane Rehm Show, featuring the following experts:
Cynthia Moss, professor, University of Maryland; director, auditory and neuroethology bat laboratory
Dan Ashe, director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior
Mylea Bayless, conservations programs manager, Bat Conservation International
David Blehert, microbiologist, U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center
Become a Friend:
The truth about bats is a far cry from popular superstition and mythology. According to Lollar, author of The Bat in My Pocket: A Memorable Friendship, and other scientific and popular bat literature, bats truly are wonderful friends of the world. Loller, discovered firsthand, after rescuing Sunshine, the first injured bat she nursed back to health, that bats are intelligent, attractive animals and can become a best friend and true companion just like a dog or cat. Lollar's Bat World Sanctuary is recognized as one of the world's leading facilities in bat care and cutting-edge rehabilitation treatments. Staff members at Bat World Sanctuary have worked hard to create specific guidelines for excellence in bat-education programs, now being used worldwide. To learn more about Bat World Sanctuary, please visit the Related Links Section.
Dr. Tuttle, not only the founder of BCI but also is a biologist and skilled bat photographer, is quoted saying, "The single biggest threat to bats is human ignorance about them." The mission of Tuttle's BCI is to conserve the world's bats and their ecosystems in order to ensure a healthy planet. BCI is devoted to conservation, education and research initiatives involving bats and the ecosystems they serve. To learn more about BCI, please visit the Related Links Section.
Rob Mies, director and cofounder of the Organization for Bat Conservation, visits Conan O'Brian on the Tonight Show to educate people about bats. Photo Courtesy of Rob Mies and Organization for Bat Conservation.
In addition to French, Lollar, Tuttle, Bohn and other bat scientists, another true friend of bats is Rob Mies. Director and cofounder of the Organization for Bat Conservation, Mies is a dedicated scientist, conservationist, TV personality and all-around bat expert who has focused his passion on entertaining and educating people about bats for more than 19 years. The Organization for Bat Conservation is also dedicated to protecting bats and the ecosystems they need to survive. As one of the largest bat-conservation education programs in the United States, the Organization for Bat Conservation hosts more than 1,500 shows to more than 250,000 people annually. The Organization for Bat Conservation has a "Bat Zone" at Cranbrook Institute of Science that is home to more than 150 bats from around the world. Visitors to the Bat Zone can see award-winning, live-bat programs that inform and educate people about the unique world in which bats live. Mies believes that working with the media is one of the most important ways the Organization for Bat Conservation can educate people about bats and bat conservation, and has been dubbed "Batman," since he has appeared on more than a dozen national TV shows in his efforts to spread awareness of and appreciation toward bats. To watch some video clips from some of Mies television shows, and to learn more about the Organization for Bat Conservation, please visit the Related Links Section.
Bat World Sanctuary, BCI, the Organization for Bat Conservation and many other conservation groups are working together to help raise awareness and appreciation of bats through education. Scientists/conservationists are eager to teach people about the important roles bats play not only in our environment, but also in the scientific world. Scientists/conservationists hope that with better understanding of bats through education, more people will join forces in helping to promote conservation and will work together to protect these misunderstood and mistreated animals. There are many myths about bats that people still believe because they don't know the truth. Some of the most common misconceptions that everyone needs to learn is that bats are not blind, not all bats carry rabies, bats do not get tangled in people's hair, most bats do not suck blood, bats are not flying mice, nor are they pests in need of extermination. Bat educators throughout the world believe that changing people's attitudes toward bats is by far the most important goal in bat conservation. People who learn to appreciate and care about bats can best help them by teaching others the truth through facts. Bats truly are unique, valuable, amazing creatures that play important roles in our ecosystem.