In the past few years, bat detectors, which plug in to a smart phone and are app-enabled, have become cost competitive with a pair of binoculars. We commit to sparking a nationwide movement toward a new kind of nature experience, at sunset instead of sunrise, by taking advantage of emerging bat detector technology and launching a nationwide bat walks program.
In 2019, we began the pilot phase of a bat walks program. Through this initiative, we will develop a network of trained volunteers who will provide interactive and in-person bat encounters. Based on existing bat walks programs in Europe and New York’s Central Park, our program will offer highly effective, experiential ways to relay to participants the importance of bats and the many threats to their survival during intermittent stops along a walking route. Through physical participation, people will retain the information they learn through shared experience and then have an opportunity to teach others.
In the pilot phase, we will partner with zoos and nature centers to access a trained network of volunteers and an existing community of nature lovers predisposed to seek out wildlife experiences. These expert partners will provide the opportunity to jointly develop materials using best practices, knowledge, and technology.
Our pilot program will begin in Texas, which is home to 32 species of bats — more than any other state in America. Bats can be found across the entire state, including in metropolitan areas and at many popular tourist destinations. In Florida, our bat walks pilot will be targeted to support our Florida bonneted bat conservation work, through a combination of community outreach and surveillance. In 2019 and 2020, initial trainings were hosted in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Miami. Our first official partner in this effort is the Houston Zoo, who will assist in developing this program in a novel way. They are a leader in effective community engagement and developing conservation messages that resonate, which will be instrumental in piloting a nationwide program.