Batology 101: Zoo program dispels myths about bats

Oct. 17, 2013 @ 01:39 PM

If the thought of bats makes you a little, um, batty, the North Carolina Zoological Park may have just the program for you.
This weekend — just in time for the Halloween season — the zoo will present “Batology 101: Fact vs. Fiction,” the park’s annual celebration of bats. The program will be held Saturday and Sunday at the zoo’s Sonora Desert exhibit in the North America region.
“We do ‘Batology’ because we wanted to get some educational information out there about bats,” says Laura Valadez, animal management supervisor for the zoo’s Sonora Desert and Streamside exhibits. and coordinator of the “Batology” program. “Bats get kind of a bad name, especially this time of year, and we wanted to share how important bats actually are for the environment.”
Valadez says bats’ bad reputation is undeserved, but she understands that most people do not care for the creepy critters.
“I think it’s just one of those things that’s been handed down by generations of people who are afraid of certain types of animals,” she says. “Bats have been popularized as being evil, especially around Halloween.”
People need to remember, though, that bats are an important part of the ecosystem, Valadez points out.
“They eat a lot of insects, so they help control that,” she says.
Here are some other facts about bats you may not be aware of:
• Bats are the only mammals capable of flying.
• A single brown bat can catch and eat more than a thousand insects in an hour.
• Vampire bats don’t really suck blood — they bite animals and then lap up the blood from the wound.
• Despite what you see in the movies, bats avoid people. Only a handful of people in the last 50 years have contracted rabies from bats in North America.
• Bats aren’t actually blind, but it’s true that they don’t see well. They use echolocation to find where they’re going, sending out ultrasonic sounds and then listening for variations in the echoes that bounce back to help them navigate.
• There are more than 1,100 species of bats in the world, and bats make up a quarter of all mammals on the planet.
• Bats have only one baby, or “pup,” a year.
• Their lifespan varies, but some species of brown bats can live to be 30 years old.
• Bats are meticulous about grooming, sometimes cleaning themselves and each other for hours at a time.
• Bats are strictly nocturnal creatures.
• The largest bat, the flying fox, can have a wingspan of up to 6 feet, while the smallest bat, the Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, has a wingspan of less than 6 inches.
• Researchers have discovered an anticoagulant in vampire bat saliva that may be used to help increase blood flow in patients with stroke or heart disease.
At the “Batology” program, visitors will find an assortment of educational displays, as well as a children’s activity station with games and prizes. In addition, zookeepers and educators will talk about such topics as bats that live in the Piedmont, bats and rabies, the foods bats eat, and how to build a bat box.
At 3:30 p.m. each day, the event will conclude with a vampire bat feeding. | 888-3579

Want to go?

“Batology 101: Fact vs. Fiction,” the North Carolina Zoo’s annual celebration of bats, will be held Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at the zoo’s Sonora Desert exhibit in the North America region.
The event will feature zoo educator and keeper talks, educational displays, information about native bats and a children’s activity station with games and prizes. The event will end each day with a vampire bat feeding.
The event is included in the regular zoo admission of $12 for adults, $10 for seniors (62 and up) and $8 for children (ages 2-12).