Bats are not a popular creature, but in Mexico deeply rooted fears and myths about bats put the creatures in serious danger. Américas reports that the Bat Conservation Program (PCMM), a non-governmental organization in Mexico is trying to change all of that.
Much of the credit belongs to PCMM’s Education Coordinator, Laura Navarro, whose children’s books–including Marcelo the Bat–are used to show children that contrary to cultural lore, bats are not hanging in a cave somewhere dreaming of their next opportunity to taste human blood.
The program starts in the classroom and branches out to adults in the community. Information is delivered through lessons, games, and tours. PCMM’s founder Rodrigo Medellín is “Mexico’s foremost bat scientist” and he estimates some 200,000 people have been involved in the organizations programs. Here’s a great example of how things are changing:
When the legend of the chupacabras–a story about a creature that killed goats and sheep by sucking their blood–spread from Puerto Rico to Mexico, many caves were burned as people tried to protect themselves from the mythical beasts. At the same time, PCMM had launched its pilot program at one of the most important bat caves in Mexico, Cueva de la Boca, located near Monterrey in Northern Mexico. The legendary Cueva de la Boca used to be the home of one of the largest populations of Mexican free-tailed bats in the world, but due to habitat loss and human disturbance, the once great population of twenty million dropped to nearly one million.
During the chupacabras scare, some of the villagers who lived near Cueva de la Boca decided that the chupacabras was living in Mexico inside of the cave. Their fear spread throughout the community and a group set out to destroy the cave. “Picture a mob in a Frankenstein movie,” Medellín explains. At the entrance to the cave, however, the angry adults were stopped by the children in the community who had completed PCMM’s educational program. The children told the adults that Marcelo the bat lived in that cave and he was with his family and that bats help protect people. These passionate children, who had develop and emotional attachment to bats, were able to convince the adults not to kill the bat colony within.
Source: Américas (article not available online)