Grace Trust, a non-profit group dedicated to empowering women and children in India, added bat conservation to its agenda this year. The Trust developed bat-education materials, explained the importance and needs of bats to key women and students, held rallies and presented community slide shows in the Madurai area of southern India. The new direction was supported by a BCI Global Grassroots Conservation Fund grant, which was made possible by the generosity of BCI Member Janet Willis.
The program began with a training session on the importance and methods of bat conservation for 150 women representing 50 women’s forums around the region. A university professor and a wildlife-conservation expert led the session. Study materials were distributed and myths that have been extremely harmful to Indian bats were dispelled. The goal is for these women to return to their communities and neighborhoods equipped to spread the word about bat conservation.
After the workshop, the women participated in a bat-conservation rally that drew 5,000 spectators.
Recognizing the great, long-term payoffs in educating children, Grace Trust sent two experienced conservationists to introduce 250 students from schools throughout the area to the values of bats and the critical need for conservation. The educators noted the needless killing of bats for commercial purposes and traditional medicines, and stressed that young people can have an important role in conservation. Participants, armed with age-appropriate study materials, pledged to carry the bat-conservation message back to their schools. Teams also introduced bat conservation programs directly to 10 schools.
In addition, 60 students with strong leadership potential were taken on a field trip into the foothills of nearby Sadurakri Mountain for a close-up look at roosting bats – and at the damage done by human hunters of bats. The role in bats in maintaining healthy ecosystems and economies became much clearer for young people seeing bats in their natural homes.
A Cycle Rally for Bat Conservation, with 60 youngsters bicycling 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) on behalf of bats, drew as many as 10,000 spectators, who were at least exposed to the idea of protecting India’s bats.
A post-project assessment found that the programs were well received and some attitudes were changed, although much work remains. Grace Trust hopes to build on this year’s experience and expand bat conservation as part of their greater mission.
You can help Grace Trust spread the vital message of bat conservation in India by supporting BCI’s Global Grassroots Conservation Fund. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.