Why we need to protect bat species

by Claire Wordley

 

 

About 25 per cent of bat species are threatened with extinction; and every extinct species is a link lost in the complicated ecosystem of the world.

It’s like a city – if we lose the mail service, the rubbish collection service, the electricity or the workers who repair the road, it becomes very hard to live in.

Sadly, most people don’t see the need to conserve bats and other wildlife – they don’t think about how hard it will be to live on a planet without functioning ecosystems!

Imagine pollinating every flower on a fruit tree by hand because there were no bees, birds or bats left to do it. Or think about huge plagues of insects forming because nothing is eating them.

Bats are important animals in ecosystems, controlling insect numbers, pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds – so what can we do to help them help us?

Healthy forests

We need to keep our forests healthy. Daily, we cut down about 323 km{+2}of trees worldwide.

In Asia we’ve already lost about 40 per cent of our amazing rainforests and many of the species that live there. It’s hard to totally stop habitat changes as people need jobs, land for farms and timber, but we can reduce the impact on wildlife.

For example, if people make wooden items last longer, less trees need to be cut down. Crops like coffee can be grown under trees where bats can roost.

Perhaps your family could plant more native trees in your garden? As well as providing shade for you to sit in, trees can transform your garden into a mini wildlife sanctuary.

We need to protect bats’ homes, like old trees, caves, mines and house roofs. Sadly many people kill bats when they live near us, and many tourists visit caves with lights and make lots of noise, which can make the bats leave. Is there an old tree in your neighbourhood that is in danger of being cut down? Protest!

Pollution can really affect bats. We can be very careless in the way we farm, spraying lots of pesticides around which kills the insects that bats eat, and can kill bats too. These chemicals wash into rivers which carry them far from where they were sprayed. Using less chemicals and not spraying near rivers can reduce the harm to wildlife.

In lots of places bats are still hunted for food or medicine. No ‘cures’ from bat blood or oil work, but many are still killed.

Bats only have one or two babies a year, so it takes a long time for bat numbers to recover from hunting.

In some places, bats are killed because they eat fruit crops, but mostly they only eat the very ripe fruit that can’t be sold – and remember they pollinate lots of fruit crops too!

This article appeared in the Hindu in School on 6 June 2012.

Picture: Vegetation by clear streams that provide great hunting for bats
Credit: Claire Wordley