Wildlife Tourism operators are invited to add a batty element to their tours this year to celebrate Australasian Bat Night.
Australasian Bat Night is a community engagement program designed to raise awareness about bats in Australasia, comprising an annual series of local community events held in partnership with local government and community organisations throughout Australia and New Zealand during the months of March to May.
Modelled on European Bat Night (now International), it began with a handful of events in 2012, steadily growing each year, with just under 100 events held in all states of Australia and New Zealand in 2017. This year, as at 1 March, over 70 events are registered or in planning.
Bat Nights can take many formats, from simple bat talks and walks to full bat festivals, including bat-box building workshops, bat watch picnics, bat monitoring and other citizen science projects, and can be run by tour operators, small community groups and individuals, local councils, landcare groups or partnerships between government and one or more community groups.
The program is coordinated by the Australasian Bat Society (ABS), but individual events are organised locally. The role of the ABS is to provide resources, such as Bat Facts, stickers, speakers and ideas, to promote events on ABS website and social media and mainstream media, and other assistance.
Unfortunately, there are many unfounded fears and misconceptions associated with bats, and the Bat Night events give people an opportunity to ask questions and discover the facts from experienced and knowledgeable people. Participants in many of the events will have the opportunity to join in citizen science projects and encounter bats for themselves. Very popular are ‘watch parties’ to see the dusk fly-out of both flying-foxes and microbats, as are the ‘discovery night walks’ where participants can use electronic bat detectors to hear bat echolocation calls before they see the bats.
This year officially began with a bat cruise on the Daintree River to watch thousands of Spectacled flying-foxes rise from their world heritage rainforest home into the sunset to begin their nightly foraging, distributing seed and pollen throughout the rainforest and surrounding eucalypt forest. Two boats full of people enjoyed this magical wildlife tourism event, and there is demand for more, both from those who missed out or could not make the date and those who went. Normally the operator takes daytime crocodile cruises but this just might be the beginning of a new tourism venture at the same time raising awareness about these mis-understood animals and funds for bat rescue and care.
Examples of this year’s events that imaginative wildlife tourism operators could adapt by taking their guests to a bat camp or local bushland park to watch flying-foxes emerge or microbats flit by or exit from a stag by yourself or meeting up with a local wildlife group include:
- Bat Mobile – Saturday 10 March – Sydney, NSW
A bus tour to grey-headed flying-fox camps in Greater Sydney with the North Sydney Council Bushland Team and ecologist and bat specialist, Tim Pearson of Sydney Bats to celebrate Australian Bat Night. Learn about these wonderful but often misunderstood endangered animals.
- Microbats at twilight in Landcox Park – Friday 6 April – Brighton East, Melbourne Vic –
Join Friends of Native Wildlife to search for small insect-eating bats in Landcox Park. Microbats use echolocation to find their prey and navigate. They are everywhere, but difficult to find because they are so small and their calls are beyond human hearing. Our bat detectors bring down the sound so we will know when the bats are around.
- Bat Night in Shepparton – Friday 23 March – Shepparton Vic
Batman Robert Bender is returning to Shepparton to share his passion for Bats! Discover the local bats of Greater Shepparton with expert bat enthusiast, Robert Bender. Bring the kids along and get them engaged with these fascinating animals.
- Bat Night at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary – Saturday 7 April – Brighton, Tas
Come along to the ‘Bush Tucker Shed’ at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary as local bat expert Dr. Lisa Cawthen takes us inside the world of these amazing mammals. Listen to her adventures studying these creatures, and then accompany her on a walk around the sanctuary to look for bats flitting through the trees. Free but bookings essential.
- Cairns Bat Festival – Saturday 21 April – Cairns FNQ
Becoming more popular each year, Cairns Bat Festival is returning to SaltHouse on the Esplanade. There will be expert talks about our iconic spectacled flying-foxes and their place in World Heritage Wet Tropics, community stalls and batty goods to buy and loads of activities and craft for kids and adults alike. Free event!
- ‘Bats Fantastic’ – Wednesday, 18 April – Piney Lakes Environmental Education Centre, Winthrop, WA
Join the Piney Lakes team for all kinds of batty activities, bring a torch and take part in a night stalk and why not really get into the spirit and dress up as Batman or Batwoman!
Click on this link http://ausbats.org.au/australasian-bat-night/ for more information on the Australasian Bat Night program, to find out how to get involved or to register an event, or email WTA vice-chair, Maree Treadwell Kerr, who coordinates the program on [email protected] .
Find events near you on http://ausbats.org.au/find-a-bat-night-event/