Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Wanderers 2015.10.20

Cute Bat
:: fruit bat ::

If you know the ethnography of our region, you'll know that Halloween, the upcoming major holiday, is associated with a Gothic sensibility regarding the underworld, featuring what we call "creepy" imagery centered around cemeteries, skeletons and... bats.

This linkage, of a flying mammal (the only one -- those squirrels don't really count), to a folk meme-plex (not forgetting Dracula and vampires more generally), is rather unfortunate, as humans act out based on such nonsense.  Their brains are wired to allow such melodrama.

So, for example, entire caverns of important colonies, responsible for keeping insect populations in check, helping farmers, who feed the people, have been torched by irresponsible "idiots" as Dick calls them.

Bats were killed by the thousands in some zip code areas, by ridiculously ignorant hominids with uncultured neuro-systems, run amok.  We see that a lot in humans, less so in other species.  So many freaks of nature commit vandalism and wreak havoc in our midst!

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself here .  Thank you Bat Conservation International, for helping us to understand.

Dick Pugh was our speaker tonight, despite his bad cough, and he has a lot of personal experience with these animals.

It's not like he hasn't disturbed bat habitats in the name of science.  In the early days he trapped live specimens for the university at twenty five cents a pop.

However good science seeks to learn how and when enough is enough and is today highly sensitize to the high value of bat colonies.  Sure, some are bloodsuckers, but actually not that many.  The vast majority are pollinators, sometimes the only pollinators of a species, and spreaders of fruit seeds, in addition to keeping insects under control.

To attack one's bat population deliberately is usually not a good sign i.e. chances are the humans in questions have been overwhelmed with delusions.

During the Eisenhower administration, the attack was less deliberate than unknowing.  The importance of bat colonies was one of those unknown unknowns.  The front burner concern was personal safety and the fact of gaping holes in the earth known as abandoned mines.  These were dangerous places that invited reckless and/or adventurous individuals to injure themselves, so the policy was to dynamite their entrances thereby rendering them inaccessible.

The problem with this policy was important bat colonies were already taking up residence and the ecosystems were in a new equilibrium.  Disturbing the status quo this drastically brought unexpected ill health to the economy.

Again, farmers are forbidden by law from applying DDT, at one time considered the miracle pesticide, and have wised up in general about the health effects, in the ecosystem beyond just supermarkets, of these toxins.

Establishing bat colonies in and around the same fields on purpose is a way to keep some species of pest more or less under control.  The benefits are tangible.  Letting nature work for you, instead of working against nature, turns out to be sound business strategy.

Back to bats.  Some have enormous ears.  "Echo-location" we call it, but then photons bounce too and we sometimes emit them with flashlights.  "Ear-sight" might be another name for it.  They can pick bugs out of the sky and lick the surface of a lake with their elongated tongues.

Humans have had some close symbiotic / friendly relationships with bats.  The founder of the BCI had one hanging off his arm during presentations, an old friend.  We heard other stories of this nature.

Dick has worked a lot on restoring and / or boosting bat habitats, including through a Cleveland High School program aimed and building bat houses for Oaks Bottom.

The new approach regarding abandoned mines and some other caverns, is to make them bat friendly, in terms of egress and entrance, but inaccessible to unauthorized humans.

Of course truly malicious humans will find other ways to mess with the bats, but most of us are willing to co-exist with our ecosystem partners and appreciate their hard (if unpaid) work.

Keeping it Bat Friendly
:: keeping it bat friendly ::