Program kicks off with workshop in Colombia.

04.18.24
Photo by: Jan Haft

Austin, TX (April 17, 2024) – On this year’s International Bat Appreciation Day, a team of biologists, ecologists, geologists, and veterinarians will convene to launch a major new effort in global bat conservation, the MENTOR-Bat Program. The new program aims to advance global bat conservation while developing and supporting the next generation of bat conservation leaders around the world.

The program will utilize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS’s) MENTOR model to build and support teams of early-career professionals focusing on bat conservation. Since 2008, this program has worked with nine cohorts of transdisciplinary professionals, focusing on different conservation priorities, including pangolins, wild meat consumption, and African forests. The goal is to build a scalable model for conservation success by building and strengthening local capacity for conservation leadership. The 2023-2025 MENTOR-Bat program is the first to focus on bats and is supported through a partnership with Bat Conservation International (BCI).

The program welcomes 12 distinguished participants — including one Mentor and three Fellows from Cameroon, Colombia, and Indonesia. Participants were selected in a competitive process, with bat specialists being recruited as Mentors, and early career professionals from a broad spectrum of backgrounds as Fellows.

“We’re thrilled to welcome a new cohort of Fellows with such a breadth of experience, ranging from virology to public health to cave research,” says Daphne Carlson (DVM, PhD), Head, Division of International Conservation at USFWS. “We look forward to working with them and our incredible Mentors to promote the healthy co-existence of bats and humans.” 

MENTOR-Bat will focus on One Health priorities such as reducing bat persecution, restoring and protecting bat habitats, reducing bat consumption and trade, and promoting bat and human health.

“We’re equipping the next generation of conservation leaders with the ability to recognize and address the interrelated threats to human, bat, and ecosystem health,” says Luz de Wit, PhD, BCI’s Director of One Health. “Through the program, Fellows will gain the skills necessary to identify evidence-based solutions aimed at preventing, mitigating, or reducing these threats, thus fostering a One Health approach to bat conservation.”

The 18-month program will involve virtual training with network experts on topics related to bat conservation, including One Health, human dimensions of conservation, leadership, and adaptive management. Participants will also meet in person three times, with an opening ceremony in Colombia, a summer workshop in Indonesia, and a final workshop in Cameroon.

Participants will design and implement bat conservation projects that mitigate threats and apply ecological countermeasures that benefit both wildlife and human well-being. Teams will also work together across countries to strengthen connections and promote human health and bat protection around the globe.

MENTOR-Bat will work to protect vulnerable bat populations in BCI’s high priority areas for conservation. It will empower the participants and strengthen capacity in high priority areas in order to protect people, bats, and ecosystems.

Meet the Mentors and Fellows

The Mentors and Fellows participating in the 2023-2025 BCI and USFWS MENTOR-Bat program include:

Mentors:

Sigit Wiantoro (Indonesia) is a researcher at the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense (MZB), Research Center for Biosystematics and Evolution, National Research and Innovation Agency in Indonesia, with research focusing on the ecology, taxonomy, and systematics of Indonesian bats and Indo-Australian bats in the region.

Daisy Alejandra Gomez Ruiz (Colombia) is a biologist from Universidad de Antioquia in Medellín Colombia, who works as a professor and researcher at Corporación Universitaria Remington in the Veterinary Medicine undergraduate program.

Jules Patrick Atagana, PhD, (Cameroon) is a bat specialist and assistant lecturer at the Biological Science Department, Faculty of Science of the University of Ngaoundéré.

Fellows:

Gabriela Pena-Bello (Colombia) is a biologist at the National University of Colombia. She works as a research assistant in the Behavioral Ecology & Conservation research group at the Universidad del Rosario in Bogota.

Aicha Gomeh-Djame (Cameroon) is a PhD student at the University of Yaoundé with a doctoral focus on the bats of the Congolian forest.

Ana Maria Sanchez Zapata (Colombia) has experience managing wildlife conservation projects involving universities, government, rural communities, and the private sector in Colombia.

Cyrille Mbu’u Mbanwi (Cameroon) is a research assistant and PhD student at the Department of Microbiology at the University of Yaounde I (UYI) in Cameroon, with research focusing on “Identification and Characterization of Henipaviruses in Bats and Rodents at the Human-wildlife Interface in Cameroon”.

Ellena Yusti (Indonesia) is a bat researcher for CRC 990 EFForTS, a Collaborative Research Centre funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation). Her research focuses on aboveground biodiversity patterns and processes across rainforest transformation landscapes.

Fauzan Rizky (Indonesia) has worked with bats a number of times over the years, including in August 2023 as a bat specialist for Operation Wallacea in Buton Island, Indonesia.

Juliana Herrera (Colombia)is an environmental geologist, with extensive knowledge of karst and cave systems.

Maria Suhatri (Indonesia) works as an education manager advocating for orangutan conservation, promoting sustainable practices, and protecting natural habitats.

Monique Agnès Mioni Ndame (Cameroon) is a veterinarian practicing at the Zoological Garden of Garoua, who also supervises research students at the Veterinary School of Ngaoundere.

To learn more about the MENTOR-Bat program, visit batcon.org/mentor.

About Bat Conservation International

Bat Conservation International is a global conservation organization dedicated to ending bat extinctions. Our team works worldwide to conserve caves, restore critical habitats in danger, and ensure the survival of the world’s bat species. For more information, visit batcon.org.

Media Contact: Kathryn Slater 

Tel: 512.327.9721 Ext. 463 

Email: kslater@batcon.org