The state of Queensland in northeast Australia "celebrated" the country's Threatened Species Day on September 7 by reinstating fruit-growers' right to kill four species of flying foxes, including two that are listed as threatened: the spectacled and grey-headed flying foxes. Conservation groups throughout Australia and elsewhere are urging the state to reconsider – and they need your help.
Queensland had banned the shooting of flying foxes four years ago after the state's Animal Welfare Advisory Committee ruled that it was inhumane. Many of these bats face a slow death after being wounded by shotgun pellets, and flying fox pups often die of thirst or starvation after their mothers are shot.
A new state regulation that exempts flying foxes from humaneness requirements under the Nature Conservation Act took effect September 7. Both species are listed as threatened under Australia's federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999.
Under the new regulation, up to 10,500 flying foxes can be shot legally each year with "Damage Mitigation Permits." Conservationists warn, however, that many more are likely to be shot illegally and thousands of young bats will also die.
Australian bat experts note that appropriate netting is a more effective way to protect orchards from bats and birds than shotguns.
Bat Conservation International is calling for the immediate suspension of this shooting regulation and the establishment of a mitigation fund to help farmers net their orchards, protecting the fruit and the bats. This is a complex bat-conservation crisis and BCI is committed to working with Australia's conservationists, farmers and government officials to find a long-term solution.
Please let the government of Queensland know that people around the world are concerned about this tragic decision, which should be rescinded. Make your voice heard by sending an email or letter to Andrew Powell, Queensland's Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, at glass.house@-parliament.qld.gov.au or GPO Box 2454, Brisbane, Queensland 4001, Australia. A sample letter is available at:
The Passing of Friends
Dave Redell • 1970-2012
"David's leadership, innovation, willingness to engage the public, vision and passion for conservation is a model for us all." That's how David Redell was described by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp last August, when he was awarded the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's highest conservation honor, the Silver Eagle Award. Redell, the department's lead bat ecologist and a valued BCI friend and partner, died September 17, 2012, of brain cancer. He was 42.
Redell energized the state agency's bat-conservation efforts by emphasizing the active management of bat populations, the use of citizen scientists for data collection and comprehensive public outreach and education about bats. Much of his energy in recent years was, of course, aimed at the scourge of White-nose Syndrome. He is credited with leading efforts to identify key bat-hibernation sites and to enact regulations to protect them.
A lasting legacy will be the GateKeeper beam-break system – an innovative technique for remotely counting roosting bats without having to enter and potentially disturb their caves and mines. In addition to improved bat surveys, the system should provide an early warning of the arrival of WNS at hibernation sites. After successful field-testing, it is being used by BCI and others in at least four states.
Redell began with the infrared technology that's used in motion detectors and devised paired sets of infrared-beam emitters and receivers that record each time a bat passes through a beam. The system even determines whether the beam-breaking bat is entering a cave or leaving it.
"I first met Dave Redell at a bats-and-mines meeting in 2005," recalls BCI Interim Executive Director Dave Waldien. "As he was talking about the development and potential use of the beam-break system, I thought: 'I am glad there are people in the world smarter than me.'"
Bats, and all of us, have lost a powerful friend.
Apply for a BCI Scholarship
Bat Conservation International has, since 1990, awarded 334 Student Research Scholarships to support bat studies in 62 countries around the world.
In addition to adding to scientific knowledge of bats, these scholarships help prepare new generations of scientists to take bat conservation into the future.
We are now accepting applications for 2013 BCI Scholarships. The deadline for completing online applications is December 15, 2012.
Students enrolled in degree-granting programs at colleges and universities in any nation are eligible to apply for scholarships of up to $5,000 each for the 2013-14 academic year. BCI Scholarships are available to support research that is directly relevant to the conservation of bats and their habitats.
Qualified research should address at least one of these issues: answering ecological or behavioral questions that are essential to conservation or management; resolving an economic problem that will improve support for conservation; or documenting key ecological or economic roles of bats.
These scholarships are competitive, and qualified applications will be judged by a panel of non-BCI bat experts. Awards are announced in the spring.
Applications must be completed online at BCI's website (www.batcon.org/scholarships).
U.S. Forest Service International Programs has been an invaluable partner since 2005, providing direct support for approximately 10 Bats in International Forestry scholarships per year to support bat research in developing countries.
BCI awarded 24 scholarships for projects in 16 countries for the current academic year.
Campaigning for Bats
Last March, Mayor Pat Perkins signed a proclamation that made the town of Whitby, in Ontario, Canada, the first city in the world to declare that April 9-15, 2012, would be celebrated locally as Bat Awareness and Appreciation Week. That coincided with the United Nation's international week of the same name. It also amply demonstrated what one dedicated and patient high school student can accomplish.
Christopher Wait worked almost a year contacting the mayor and other city officials and providing supporting information about the ecological and economic benefits of Canada's bats. He also contacted BCI Education Director James Eggers for help and advice.
Christopher says he's been intrigued by bats for as long as he can remember. At about age 11, he did a school project on Silverwing, a best-selling children's novel about bats by Kenneth Oppel. "That's when I found the website of Bat Conservation International. It's also when I started to get a stronger appreciation and love for bats. Unfortunately, not everyone shared this love for bats because of a lot of bad myths. I was shocked to find that my family and friends didn't even like bats! They only warmed up through my persistence in educating them on bats."
That same summer, he says, "while I was with my family listening to a live band at a nearby town, I was delighted to discover a small colony of bats flying about in the grove behind the stage. Visiting the area every summer to observe those bats has become a family tradition. Sadly, over the years I have noticed that there has been a severe decrease in this small bat colony."
Meanwhile, Christopher kept studying up on bats and by the eleventh grade, he had become so knowledgeable that his teacher asked him to teach the class a lesson on bats. "What an experience!" he recalls. "I was surprised at how much interest the class had in bats. I believe all schools should teach about the importance of bats."
Eggers, meanwhile, invited Christopher to attend a bat workshop at the Annual North American Symposium on Bat Research in Toronto October 29, 2011. He was especially excited at the opportunity to speak with Dr. Brock Fenton, a top bat biologist, following a lecture in Toronto last June.
Christopher is planning on a career as a lawyer. But he says he'll also study some biology, as well, and "I plan to continue my community service in teaching people the importance of bats and about the threat of White-nose Syndrome." With friends like Christopher Wait, the bats of North America will be in good hands in the years to come.
Millions of Mexican free-tailed bats came spiraling out of BCI's Bracken Bat Cave on September 18, and their evening emergence for a night of bug-hunting thrilled an estimated 40,000 people. That unprecedented audience watched the BatsLIVE webinar from Bracken Cave – an ambitious internet-based program of distance learning.
The 93-minute webcast, aimed primarily at environmental educators for schools, libraries, zoos, nature centers and museums, also featured live lessons about bats and their conservation by experts from Bat Conservation International, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the San Antonio Zoo.
BCI is also a founding partner, with the Forest Service (the primary funder) and the Prince William Network, of the BatsLIVE program. The network is part of Prince William County (Virginia) Public Schools and manages the BatsLIVE website (batslive.pwnet.org).
The Bracken webcast is the third in a continuing series conducted by BatsLIVE: A Distance Learning Adventure. The goal is to "raise the awareness, understanding and appreciation of bats and the unique karst and cave ecosystems that many bats rely on."
The Bracken webcast can be viewed at www.batslive.pwnet.org/webcast/webcast_page_sep18.php