Faces of Species360 – Elisabeth Hunt
Our next Faces of Species360 introduction is Director of Member Support and Training Elisabeth Hunt, who has been fascinated by bats ever since her college days when she cared for a rescue bat named Bruce. Here she shares her appreciation for bats and the work our members do in support of bat conservation to celebrate Bat Week (April 1-7) and Bat Appreciation Day (April 17).
A cat toy goes bump in the night
After ignoring the noise for twenty minutes or so, I finally sat up in bed, glancing wearily at the clock. “That’s it, cat, it’s 2:37 in the morning. I’m taking away your cat toy.” The cat gave me a look of disdain as he showed me his “toy” – a bat, specifically a big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus). I removed the cat, grabbed a towel from the bathroom, and, once the tiny frightened mammal calmed down enough to land, I scooped it up and released it outside – then fell asleep planning how to relocate the rest of the bats I now knew were likely residents in my house.
Rescuing Bruce the bat
I’ve loved bats for years, ever since a construction project at Calvin College disturbed a hibernating bat and I ended up caring for it in my role as the biology department’s animal caretaker. Bats who wake during hibernation cannot easily go back to sleep, and often starve as they cannot find insects to feed on. “Bruce” (yes, named after Batman’s secret identity) was a big brown bat who readily ate mealworms and crawled about in his enclosure until it warmed up enough for the insects he needed to survive on his own were out and about.
A few bat facts
Bats are everywhere, from desert to rainforest to farm to city; they are found on every continent except Antarctica (much like our members!) Bats play critical roles in the ecosystem – both as consumers of insects and as pollinators. (If you like tequila, thank a bat.) Roughly 20% of all mammal species are bats – a percentage surpassed only by rodents (who are in a different taxonomic order). Despite their ubiquitous nature, bats face enormous challenges. In addition to the habitat loss that threatens so many animal species today, bats also face the deadly fungus that causes White Nose Syndrome, which as of October 2017 had killed more than six million bats in North America since its discovery in 2007.
Bats in ZIMS
Today, Species360 members hold over 6,000 bats of more than 100 species in ZIMS, ranging from the tiny insect-eating microbats to the huge fruit-eating flying foxes. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in North America holds over 1,600 bats of ten different species, and Zoo Frankfurt in Europe holds over 600 individuals of Seba’s short-tailed bat. Our members are doing great bat conservation work as well. In fact, 44 Species360 members in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America collectively hold over 800 critically endangered Rodrigues flying foxes. Notably, there were 129 baby Rodrigues flying foxes born at seven members in the past year, with 35 being born at Chester Zoo in the UK.
In honor of Bat Appreciation Day (April 17), as well as all the other bat awareness days this month, I want to express my thanks to the more than 280 Species360 members who contribute towards bat conservation by helping their visitors discover and appreciate these amazing mammals!
Elisabeth Hunt is Director of Member Support and Training for Species360. Prior to joining Species360, she worked for Binder Park Zoo where she held a variety of roles such as designing and delivering animal education programs, creating interpretive graphics, collecting and cataloging herps in island environments, and helping zookeepers. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Calvin College. During her spare time, she enjoys martial arts, Legos, playing the bass clarinet, and hanging out with her son.
Bat appreciation in April and October
Some calendars indicate that Bat Appreciation Week occurs on the first full week of April, while others show it occurring annually on October 24-31. Both are actually great times of the year to appreciate bats. April is the best time of the year to observe bats as they begin to emerge from hibernation, and Halloween is in October of course (also Bat Appreciation Month). National Bat Appreciation Day occurs in the middle of April on April 17, and it’s an excellent time to learn more about bats and the role they play in nature.
To learn more, check out this Forbes article covering five awesome facts about bats and this interview with Bat Conservation Board member, Wes Sechrest. You can also tune into the latest conversations on Twitter at #BatAppreciationDay, #BatWeek, #BatAppreciationMonth, and by following the social media handles on this list.