Happy Halloween all!
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays although I did not dress up this year. I had visions of dressing up as a bat with white nose syndrome but it just didn’t come to fruition. I wanted to draw attention to white nose syndrome (WNS). In the past week scientists made a small breakthrough and were able to prove that a fungus (Geomyces sp.) causes white nose syndrome. White nose syndrome was first seen in New York in 2006, has been spreading ever since and has made its way across the Mississippi river. Over One Million bats have died from WNS and although it effects more than one species the little brown bat populations are declining rapidly due to WNS. To date, WNS is confirmed in 19 states and now threatens the endangered Indiana myotis, gray myotis, and Virginia big-eared bats.
You may be wondering who cares? Well one little brown bat can eat about 400 mosquitoes in one night. I don’t know about you but I HATE mosquitoes and if we lose bats the population of insects will increase, and the diseases mosquitoes carry (such as West Nile virus) will also increase. You also may be worried about somehow magically getting rabies from seeing a bat. Less than one percent of bats carry rabies. Unless you are consistently picking up bats, you are at more risk to aquire rabies from a dog or squirrel. Any mammal can carry rabies. During graduate school, I had the lucky (or unlucky) pleasure of of being bit by lots of bats from mexican free tailed bats, big brown, pipistrelles and more and have yet to show signs of frothing at the mouth due to rabies.
So what can you do to help bats in the wild?
1. Build a bat house! I am sooo excited for January as we will be hosting a bat workshop where we build bat houses! Need more info? Click here.
2. Contact your government officials and urge them to support bat conservation! For more info and sample letters click here.
3. Learn more about bats and take a look at Bat Conservation International. A phenomenal organization whose mission is: to conserve the world’s bats and their ecosystems to ensure a healthy planet.
4. Celebrate Year of the Bat! The United Nations has declared 2011-2012 as year of the bat. Many organizations around the world will be hosting events to bring awareness to bats. Get involved in your local area! If there isn’t already something going on, why not host an event! For more info click here.
BOO at the ZOO: This weekend was Boo at the Zoo at the El Paso Zoo and we had a blast! Almost 8,000 people came to participate in pumpkin bowling, Halloween maze, Halloween games, candy stations and over 20 animal enrichment programs! It was very busy for three education specialists with 26 educational programs to carry out. I was excited to reach out to so many people. Hopefully while they watched the animals playing with their Halloween enrichments, they were inspired to help support them in the wild. To refresh your memory of what an enrichment is, read a recent blog post: click here.
I spoke about so many conservation initiatives and ways to get involved, if one person takes it home then I have done my job. Here are a few of the conservation initiatives I brought up during programs: recycling, buying recycled products, buy local, avoid palm oil, plant native plants, sustainable seafood, water conservation, and so many more.
I loved watching the animals receiving their enrichments and so did the public. The Enrichment Coordinator and all the keepers worked very hard to have pumpkins, scarecrows and bobbing for apples for all the animals. The animals were very grateful. Here are some pictures:
Thank you to Carrie (Enrichment Coordinator) for all the great pictures!
I hope everyone had a great Halloween!