As part of an awareness campaign and efforts to change public opinion concerning bats, Contact Environment and SOS Bats recently carried out symbolic adoptions of the little brown bat at Belle Anse and Gaspe Elementary schools. Dylan and Taylor Clark of the SOS Bats project lead the students through the Symbolic Adoption, patiently taking time to answer questions and perhaps more importantly listen to the ideas and stories of the students. A highlight for Taylor was when one of the students explained how, ‘ bats swoop down and skim the water to drink.’ The adoption kits purchased from the Canadian Wildlife Federation include a plush little brown bat, ‘All About Bats’ poster, information about White- nose syndrome and an official adoption certificate. The kits will remain in the school as a means to continue discussions and create awareness about the little brown bat and the conservation needs of species at risk bats in general.
The first time an activity of this kind took place in local schools it was welcomed and supported by Principal Beryl Boyle who played a major role in preparing for the events. Students and teachers alike were enthusiastic about the presentation and even teachers who admitted to being a little afraid of bats were on board to try and help spread the word.
Teachers at both schools were asked to ‘prep’ their students by introducing the bats before the activity and it would seem took the request very seriously as hands flew up as students were asked what they knew about bats and eagerly shared their new found knowledge.
SOS Bats wanted to share the seriousness of the bat situation with students but also wanted the activity to be fun so used information centres in an interactive activity where students could ask questions and discuss their bat knowledge in an informal setting.
Stations included the First Nations Mic Mac community of Gespeg and its role in the project, migratory and resident bat species of our area, and of course the infamous Vampire Bat that doesn’t live here. An echolocation and acoustic monitoring station allowed students to hear a bat call and see it in real time with an Echo- Meter 3 that is used extensively in community bat monitoring programs. White nose syndrome was also discussed and students got to see a picture of the bat that confirmed WNS in the Gaspe.
On a happier note students got to sign the adoption poster and color a take-home bat picture to initiate discussions with parents. The main message to students was that bats are useful(they eat mosquitoes), and a special emphasis was placed on the fact that that they should never ever under any circumstances touch a bat (or any wild animal) they may find but instead tell their parents or another adult who will know what to do.
‘How can we help?’ is the big question and although there is admittedly no magic wand, awareness that there is a problem is the first step and a willingness to help is in fact a start. In the coming weeks and months SOS Bats will be initiating other activities and an awareness campaign. Please stay tuned. A special thanks goes out to Beryl Boyle and the teaches of Belle Anse and Gaspe Elementary Schools and especially those who shared pictures on social media in a bid to spread the word. Contact Environment would also like to acknowledge the Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk who is funding the SOS Bats initiative.