On our 40th Anniversary, we celebrate the members who were there from day one.
After four decades, Bat Conservation International (BCI) has celebrated many accomplishments it wouldn’t have achieved without the help of supporters, members, and donors that joined along the way. However, we’d love to share the story of two individuals that have supported BCI since day one. We’d like to thank BCI Members Emily Davis and John Bassett for their unwavering support and passion for saving bats. Their contributions cannot be overstated.
It makes sense that Emily Davis—a cave explorer since 1969, a recognized cave expert, and bookseller of cave-centered publications—would discover BCI before it officially launched and become one of the organization’s first members.
Over the four decades that followed, Davis has been at the forefront of protecting cave and karst habitats for bats, including the Nakanacagi Cave in Fiji, which supports the only known roost for endangered Fijian free-tailed bats (Chaerephon bregullae).
In 2017, Davis and her husband, Mike Warner (also an intrepid cave explorer), assisted BCI by mapping the cave which ultimately resulted in the creation of a bat sanctuary.
Work in caves can be glorious as well as challenging, she says. In 2008, Davis and Warner were contacted by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to check out a cave with reported mass bat deaths. “What we found were hundreds of bats, hanging frozen and dead,” Davis says. Their discovery was among the first of tragic deaths attributed to a puzzling condition named White-nose Syndrome (WNS). Davis and Warner volunteered to organize and conduct soil surveys in caves throughout the U.S., scouring for signs of WNS. Science is key to conservation, according to Davis. “Adding impressive scientists to BCI’s board and staff has been key to BCI’s successes and its strong future,” she says.
Forty years ago, John Bassett liked what he heard about a newly formed organization called BCI. Bassett had been researching the cardiovascular systems of bats for more than a decade and believed that bats “needed to be better represented and better understood.”
“At the time, people thought of bats as creepy and considered them pests,” he says. “Bats were being killed, like vermin, and disposed of without thought.” Bassett became one of BCI’s first members and has been a stalwart supporter ever since.
BCI has helped turn public attitudes about bats, he says. “A case-in-point is that bats are now considered wildlife, not pests. This is an important distinction. Bats cannot be killed arbitrarily. You find a bat in your house now, you don’t call an exterminator, you call someone who can help remove the bat safely.” Educating people about the importance of bats is crucial to the future of bats, he believes. Bassett, now retired from his impressive career in zoology and environmental physiology, volunteers his expertise to map the Pacific Northwest’s 15 bat species and conducts bat talks at a downtown Seattle park.