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Azmina Kamal creates eye-catching illustrations
by Melody Schreiber
When Azmina Kamal illustrates bats, she strives to make her depictions as realistic as possible, consulting with bat biologists to make sure the drawings are taxonomically accurate. Her attention to scientific accuracy and detail is one reason why the bat stickers she creates resonate with people who normally don’t pay that much attention to the animals.
That and, well, they’re adorable.
Kamal has teamed up with BCI to draw a series of bats for stickers to be distributed in communities from southern Florida to Jamaica. In Miami-Dade County, for example, Dr. Melquisedec Gamba-Rios, a research fellow leading Bat Conservation International’s project on the federally endangered Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus), plans to deliver hundreds of stickers to teach residents more about the animals and to underscore why conservation is so important.
Many people in the communities where he works don’t understand the differences between various species of bats or even realize there are different types. Seeing friendly depictions of the bats also helps to break the stigma around them.
“Everyone knows the big iconic animals, such as alligators and the Florida panther,” Dr. Gamba-Rios says. “But when you ask people about the rest of the local fauna, most are unaware of how much diversity is out there and what they look like. These stickers provide a really good resource because they help us show people some of the bat species in the community, in particular, the endangered Florida bonneted bat.”
Kamal first turned her artistic eye to bats about two years ago, when she was working as a research assistant at the National University of Malaysia. The Malaysian Bat Conservation Research Unit was conducting research on flying foxes on the Malaysian peninsula of Pulau Tioman, and Kamal thought hand-painted bat stickers would be nice tokens of appreciation for research participants. She is now working toward her doctoral degree at Kyoto University in Japan, but she’s widened her scope to also draw bats from other areas.
“For people outside of the bat community, they get to see the facial features of these bats
up close, whereas they wouldn’t be able to see it in real life,” Kamal says. “Usually, when I show them these stickers, they’re amazed and shocked, even, how they can be so diverse between different species.” Kamal says she hopes people will look at her artwork and say, “I didn’t know bats could look like that.”
Kamal’s depiction of the Florida bonneted bat, for instance, looks alert, intelligent, and friendly. These bats tend to roost in houses, which means involving residents is key to conservation.
“In Miami-Dade County, the stickers serve as a valuable resource to help engage the local community and raise awareness about why bats are important and why they need to be protected, especially the Florida bonneted bat,” Dr. Gamba-Rios says. “We need the involvement of the community to learn more about the species and the conservation of urban roosts. This collaboration will help us to design the correct conservation strategy in order to ensure the survival of the species.”
Kamal is contributing art to several bat conservation projects, illustrating several species of bats, including the Antillean ghost-faced bat, the Leach’s single-leaf bat, the Parnell’s mustached bat, the Greater bulldog bat, and the Brazilian free-tailed bat. Although Kamal’s passion is for bat research, she enjoys contributing to the bat community in a creative way.
“I’m really happy if it helps educate the public and raise more awareness on these bats,” Kamal says. “Previously, I illustrated mainly for fun, and it’s really nice to have some purpose while illustrating these bats.”