Monday, May 2, 2011

Bats and a Batman

Bats and a Batman

Bats have always remained as the symbols of fright and eeriness; they are supposed to be accomplices of evil souls like witches, sorcerers and scary ghosts! They are comic looking, nocturnal and live in desolate areas like caves, caverns and dark places in barns giving some sense of fear and intrigue. Batman the child friendly cartoon hero remains very popular but it has done nothing to help children love or understand real bats. Our Batman (Mr. Tuttle) is no cartoon icon but a real man in flesh and blood; who leads a life dedicated for the conservation of these wonderful animals.

Bats have many unique features like; world’s only mammals capable of sustained flight; they simply hang on the branches with bottom up. They can fly in utter darkness with help of high frequency and hence inaudible sound waves sent and received back in to their elaborate ears etc (this mechanism is more efficient than the eye-sight of other animals). Big ears, doglike face, nocturnal life (active during nights) umbrella like black pseudo-wings (formed by skin between fingers) etc make bats a riddle to common people making superstitions flourish around these poor things.

Mr. Merlin Devere Tuttle –Curator of mammals in Milwaukee Public Museum – is one of the most eminent American ecologists; was born in Honolulu Hawaii in 1941. He was interested in bats and their behavior from the very young age. This batman is not dressed in queer attire like the cartoon figure; he holds many doctorates in various fields of animal behaviors like foraging, migration, hibernation, energetic thermo regulation etc.

He is most eloquent when it comes to bats and has smashed many age old myths about bats like they are useless and dirty creatures; destroy crops, spread rabies, bite human beings and suck blood etc. The organization formed under Tuttle’s leadership ‘BCI’ or Bat Conservation International (founded in March12, 1982) has conducted detailed researches about bats and their ecological importance. The observations made by it have disproved many age old myths about bats one by one. As per BCI study 150 big brown bats consume about 600,000 cucumber beetles which would have otherwise laid 33 million rootworms capable of destroying thousands of acres of crops. They munch mosquitoes not by numbers but by kilograms per day!

About 300 plant species need bats for their propagation; most of these plants are economically very important as they yield more than 450 commercial products worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Bats as it per the believes are ‘dirty creatures’ but nothing is far from truth as bats spend most of their free time cleaning themselves and never let any dirt stick on their body. In spite of all these good works the very existence of bats is being threatened by human activities like sealing the used mines where millions of bats live and lead them to death by suffocation. Cutting down trees where bats live in colonies etc leading them to perish for want of abode. Before the intervention of BCI millions of dollars were spent by the US Government to exterminate bats as they were thought to be pests!

Adding to the poor animals’ woes; there comes the disease by name ‘White nose syndrome’ which has terminated millions of bats already and counting. BCI has one more task in its shoulder; this malady being propagated by a bug; activism, persuasion or demonstrations have no role in its eradication. Concerted activities and serious research alone can serve the purpose where BCI can function as a nodal organization. Tuttle and his brainchild are of much more relevance in this time when these poor animals perish in to oblivion.

Bats are man’s friends and our economy and ecology need bats among many other contributors which we nurture on huge costs. Most of desolate islands would have remained barren but for the service of bats known as flying foxes; as they fly thousands of kilometers with the fruits and disperse their seeds in a single night. Most of the plants of very great commercial value would have vanished but for bats; the threat of wns (White Nose Syndrome) is a challenge on human existence as well and Tuttle should not be alone in his battle for the bats.