The Echo
Women in Bat Conservation: Norma Monfort

Women in Bat Conservation: Norma Monfort


Norma Monfort infront of Monfort CaveName: Norma Monfort

Title: Founder and President

Organization: Monfort Bat Cave & Conservation Foundation, Inc.

How have you been involved with Bat Conservation International? 

Bat Conservation International scientists, Dr. Merlin D. Tuttle and Dr. David Waldien conducted a scientific survey in 2006 of the Monfort Bat Cave.  They published key management recommendations measures since it was determined to house the world’s largest known population of Geoffroy’s Rousette fruit bats (Rousettus Amplexicaudatus). All the other caves on Samal island and the Region were practically empty due to human disturbance except for the Monfort Cave, so the scientists urged the Monfort family and the environmental groups supporting the family’s efforts to conserve the caves.  BCI and Monfort worked together for years promoting bat conservation in the Philippines.

Geoffroys Rousette fruit bat.What is your current focus in bat conservation?

I continue to focus in launching active education and awareness-raising campaigns among policy-makers and the general public on the life of bats, their habitat and their role in the ecosystem. Their economic value in the region’s production of high value fruits makes bat conservation very important. I continue to campaign so bats can continue playing their roles in the pollination of key economic fruits in the region, such as durian and wild banana. 

In August of 2014 I started the campaign to get the public and government to give credit where credit is due. The annual festival celebrating a bountiful harvest is a focus for tourism by the government and it celebrates the region’s endangered Philippine Eagle as the center and icon. I feel that credit should be given where credit is long overdue - because without the Bat there will never be bountiful harvests and without the Bat there will be no Eagle to save. No amount of manmade reforestation efforts from both private and government sectors can match the reforestation bats do every night to save the remaining natural habitat for the Eagle. So much talk and money is being spent on climate change conferences but everyone continues to overlook the bat’s contribution in mitigating climate change as major agents of reforestation!  Hellooooo World!  Hear Bat Mama’s BATtlecry: CPR Bats!  ­Conserve, Protect, Respect!

The Department of Tourism designated the Monfort Bat Cave as a key eco-tourism destination site and Monfort immediately created and founded the Philippine Bat Conservation Inc. which established a proven track record for educating the public while consistently involving itself in a number of activities related to bat and cave conservation in the Davao Region. 

What’s your favorite species and why?

No doubt about it, the Geoffroy’s Rousette fruit bat is my favourite because it is the splitting image of my Dachshunds who gives me so much joy with their unconditional love.  What was then estimated in 2006 to be already a population of 1.8 million rousette bats makes it hard not to love them because every night they leave but at dawn they all come back.

Monfort cave openingWhat is your proudest moment in your conservation career?

Scientists from Tokyo University were so perplexed as to why and how the bat population inside the Monfort cave kept on growing healthy despite of the cramped up space and overflowing of bats.  They wondered why instead of dying , the birthing cycle seems to go on all year round.  Mama bats during what was supposedly a non-birthing season were discovered lactating while already again pregnant and also being aggressively attacked by the male bats!

A national newspaper headlined a Sunday article featuring Norma Monfort as “The Unlikely Mama San” . This article (among the many fascinating and uniquely written stories and anecdotes) is the one that makes me most proud as from it stemmed out the term “Bat Mama” which I am now referred to when being associated with my wards, whom I fondly call the “Angels of the Night”.

What is the most amazing thing you have leant about bats?

Unbeknownst to people, the unpopular and misunderstood bat in spirituality, are symbols of birth and rebirth.  Their upside down position signifies the need to transform, to let go of old habits or ways of life and to adopt new ones though difficult and painful. As nocturnal creatures they guide people through the darkness of confusion helping us face our fears and granting us the gift of clear hearing and of listening between the lines. And because they are the only mammals that nurse their young and can truly fly, the bat is the symbol of motherhood.

Who is your female conservation hero?

Unfortunately I have not had the pleasure of meeting anyone who is as passionate about bats as I am.  This saddens me because it gets lonely to do things single handedly trying to champion this cause in my region and country. Because I have not had the honor of knowing a female conservation hero or mentor, what I do during tough times is simply glance at my Disney Worldwide Conservation Hero Medal and say to myself; “Think of what you have accomplished because of your enthusiasm which translates to a formidable force called passion and remember: passion is unstoppable”.

Inside monfort caveIf you could have one incredible animal adaptation, what would it be?

I have earned the right to be the chosen steward of this Guinness World Record Holder Colony and my determined thought is that someday I will find someone who will help me feature Blancabella, one rare white albino bat who appears to select tour groups from time to time. This beautiful muse is destined to educate, amaze and entertain generations to come through books, or a documentary film perhaps.  

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I earned a degree of Bachelor of Music Major in Piano. Although I was a very talented pianist I gave it up right after graduation because I felt I had complied with what my parents wanted me to do. Eventually my love for Hawaiiana led me to put up my own school of hula in the 70’s and dancing, I say is really my forte. But today just being enrolled in the University of Life is what most matters to me.

Do you have any advice for people who want to get involved in bat conservation?

My advice and my plea is for people to simply understand and take more interest in this specie, to learn how important they are to our environment and our own survival, to respect them and learn to say “thank you bats for all the invaluable work you do, rain or shine, every night, while humanity sleeps.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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