Volume 18
Issue 3

Contribute to a unique bat survey while learning the biological and cultural aspects of conservation in a developing nation.

BCI members are invited to enroll in a unique field course that combines the wonder of a classic African safari with hands-on experience in innovative bat research and education initiatives in the East African wilderness. Upon our arrival in Kenya we will journey first to the famous Masai Mara Game Reserve, which contains the “big five” game species of Africa: lion, elephant, leopard, cape buffalo and rhino. It is also home to some of Africa’s most spectacular chiroptera, including the stunning yellow-winged bat (Lavia frons). On the Mara we will participate in game drives by day and investigate the local bat fauna by night, becoming completely immersed in the nuances of wildlife study.

From the Mara we travel eastward to the edges of legendary Tsavo National Park on the fringes of the Taru Desert, and it is here that we begin our bat studies in earnest. Our headquarters will be the Taita Discovery Center located on the Taita-Rukinga Wildlife Conservancy. This area has never before been formally surveyed for bats, but bats have been observed drinking out of area water sources, hawking insects, pollinating flowers, and feeding on fruit trees in the vicinity. The challenge during our stay will be to design and implement a bat survey protocol that will become part of ongoing ecological studies in the reserve, providing valuable contributions to science and conservation.

BCI staff, Dr. Peter Taylor, Curator of Mammals at the Durban Natural Science Museum, and local mammalogists will provide daily lectures, discussions, and demonstrations on sampling techniques, systematic data collection, and the natural history of bats and other African wildlife. By night we will put our studies into practice, netting and trapping bats over water holes and at foraging areas. Some bats suspected to occur in this area include slit-faced bats (Nycteris sp.), horseshoe bats (Rhinolophous sp.) and various species of free-tailed bats (Tadarida sp. and Otomops martiensseni). We will also use bat detectors to record the ultrasonic calls of bats that evade our capture techniques. All data collected will provide important baseline information for future studies and investigations of the undiscovered bat fauna of the Taita Hills.

To facilitate an ongoing interest in bat study and conservation here, we will also help with development of an educational program for local communities and school children. Our outreach effort will provide an opportunity to interact with Kenyans on a one-to-one basis and encourage a balance between wildlife and human needs. These activities will be instrumental to the long-range goals of successful conservation efforts.

To complete our studies of this fascinating area, we will also receive training in recognizing subtle variations in the local ecology and flora and fauna and their implications for habitat conservation. The Taita Discovery Center’s education director will provide lessons on this and other topics including wilderness survival skills, orienteering, mega-fauna monitoring programs, and concepts in wise use of sustainable resources. All our studies will include practical applications and field data gathering that will combine to give us a more detailed picture of the trade-offs and concessions that need to be made for large-scale habitat protection and management.

Participants of the BCI Field-Study Safari will finish the course with a greater understanding of the challenges and rewards of international conservation initiatives while coming face-to-face with some of Africa’s most remarkable wildlife. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to experience all the wonders of an African safari while directly participating in groundbreaking bat research!

May 7 through 19, 2001

Cost: $4,145

(from JFK Airport, New York)

Price includes a $250 tax-deductible contribution to BCI, which will be used to fund ongoing conservation and education initiatives in Africa.

Travel is arranged by Brownell Travel in Birmingham, Alabama. For a complete itinerary and registration information, contact Janet Tyburec at BCI, (520) 743-0265 or e-mail jtyburec@batcon.org.

African yellow-winged bats (above) are just one of many species that may be encountered on an African bat safari. Merlin Tuttle (below holds a recently netted yellow-winged bat for close inspection.