by Jack Schmidling
Although curious about bats since childhood, it wasn't until I attended one of Dr. Tuttle's lectures that I became aware of the need to do something for these most misunderstood of creatures.
After reading every book and paper I could find on the subject, I offered to set up an unofficial BCI chapter in Chicago. My plan was to present an interesting and informative program on bats to local clubs and institutions, the object being to educate the public on the importance of bats and to generate interest in BCI.
The first step toward getting people's attention is to offer to display a "real live bat." I do not believe it is our unalienable right to subject wild animals to captivity but I was fortunate to come across a Big Brown Bat with a wing injury that prevents it from being able to fly well enough to hunt its own food. The satisfaction received every time someone says, "Gee, I didn't know that bats were cute," is what education is all about.
The second step toward an effective program is visual imagery. Being an amateur filmmaker, I chose Super 8 sound as the medium. With the help of Marilyn Schenk and a number of other friends, we produced a twenty minute film entitled "Bats Are Beautiful" that entertains while it teaches.
The film covers all the bat basics from getting tangled in hair to Dracula. The most exciting part of the film is a segment shot at Frio and Bracken caves in Texas. The emergence of 20 million bats never fails to bring gasps from the audience.
The final step that rounds out the program is a "Bat Walk." Assuming it is summer and bats are around, we go outside with a bat detector and searchlight to hear and see bats in the wild.
We also "pass the hat for Bat Conservation," the proceeds of which go to sign up the sponsoring organization as a Member of BCI. We found a bumper sticker that says it all: "Bats Need Friends," which we sell at cost.
And, of course, we hand out BCI literature and encourage people to join or send a donation.
The latest twist in this saga is that the Chicago Board of Education has picked up the program as a segment for their "Man and His Environment" series for gifted children. Marilyn and I are giving the program three times a week to as many as 300 children per day. In addition to the "Bats Are Beautiful" program, we have appeared on television and in several newspaper articles and receive occasional calls from people wanting to know what to do with the bats in their belfry. We also scan the media for anti-bat publicity and respond as appropriate.
I would like to encourage other members to do what we have done and will be happy to help anyone get started. I can be reached at 4501 N. Moody, Chicago, IL 60630 (312685-1878).
Jack Schmidling and a young friend help to win support for bats. Photo courtesy Jack Schmidling.