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VOLUME 23, NO. 1 Spring 2005


News & Notes
Merlin D. Tuttle

The Passing of Friends

by Merlin D. Tuttle

Mack Kidd (1941-2005)

Bat Conservation International lost one of its oldest and most loyal friends this year. Judge Mack Kidd of Austin, Texas, a BCI member since December 1985, passed away in January. He was 64. Judge Kidd and his wife, Charlotte, joined BCI after attending my very first lecture in Austin. They have been enthusiastic members and supporters ever since.
BCI moved its headquarters from Wisconsin to Texas in 1986, and the Kidds gave us their unqualified support back when no one thought we had a chance of being successful as an organization dedicated to some of the most reviled and misunderstood animals.

They were among the earliest members of BCI’s Founder’s Circle, and their support has never wavered. BCI and the cause of bat conservation owe them both a great debt. Born in Enid, Oklahoma, Judge Kidd earned his undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Texas. He practiced law in Austin and had served as a justice on Texas Third Court of Appeals since 1990. Judge Kidd was always, as an obituary recounted, “deeply concerned about protecting the environment and making this world a better place for all of us.” Our hearts go out to Charlotte and the couple’s three children.

D.J. Sibley, Jr. (1913-2005)

Dr. D.J. Sibley, Jr., whose counsel and support have made an extraordinary contribution to Bat Conservation International for nearly two decades, died at his Austin home at the age of 91 following a long illness. He was a BCI member since 1985 and a Trustee and Advisory Trustee for 17 years. Dr. Sibley – a physician, medical researcher, West Texas rancher and wide-ranging conservationist – had retired from his medical practice and research at the University of Texas when he joined BCI’s board in 1987. He remained as Chairman of the Grants Committee for the Potts and Sibley Foundation. He and his wife, Jane, and their three children moved to Austin from Fort Stockton, Texas, in 1962. The couple’s interests ranged over music, ballet, art, history, genealogy and philanthropy. In addition to his active support of Bat Conservation International, Dr. Sibley was a member of the Texas Rock Art Foundation, the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, Environic Foundation International and the Big Bend Studies Program at Sul Ross State University in Alpine.
Dr. Sibley is survived by Jane, his wife of 54 years; their son, Hiram; daughter-in-law Liz of Alpine; and six grandchildren.

Saving Cyclone-battered Flying Foxes

Cyclone Heta crashed into the South Pacific island of Niue early in 2004, devastating the main town of Alofi and killing two people. The winds almost completely stripped the tropical forests of leaves, fruit and flowers. This left the island’s peka (Tongan flying foxes, Pteropus tonganus) and Pacific pigeons at severe risk of simply disappearing. The fruit-eating bats are the only mammals native to the tiny coral island, which covers just 100 square miles (260 square kilometers), and are its only significant pollinators.
One person made the difference between extinction and survival.

Misa Kulatea laboriously and continuously kept the bats and pigeons of Niue fed until nature’s offerings could be restored.
He began on his own and was quickly appointed by the Niue government to lead a special team charged with caring “for our fauna populations that have been severely traumatized.
“That the situation is critical is an understatement,” the government said at the time. “Feral cats, rodents and pigs are having a feast of birds and bats that are too exhausted to fly, or otherwise resorted to a ‘beggar status’ as they foraged on the ground for anything edible. Sadder still are those that fall victim to vehicles as they scavenge the roads for scraps of food that have been discarded by people.”

“It is no exaggeration when our tupuna [elders] say that this is the worst natural disaster in living memory,” Misa said. “The roosting and feeding grounds of our winged fauna [no longer] exist. There is little respite from the island’s relentless summer heat for there is no shelter even at low levels where predators of every description wait.”
Misa, the island’s wildlife expert, initially put out whatever was available, mostly rice, canned fruit and bread soaked in milk. He encouraged people to put out feeding stations rather than caging bats and pigeons. When help arrived from other countries, he placed canned peaches, pineapple and fruit salad at makeshift feeding stations that were placed wherever practical and accessible.

He worries that the flying foxes might become too dependent on the handouts, but starvation was the only alternative.
The surviving bats and pigeons of Niue, the government said, “have found a champion for their cause and a property that is becoming a safe haven and a possible sanctuary for roosting and breeding future generations of the flying kind. ‘We have to sleep out here in the hallway of our home,’ said Lofa, Misa’s wife and willing helper, ‘because Misa has commandeered all our bedrooms to care for the sick and the injured [creatures].’”

Each day, Misa prepares a concoction proved popular among the bats: cooked rice with fruit salad. He then climbs trees to place the food offerings in containers nestled among the uppermost branches. “Unfortunately,” he says, “rodents and chickens like it, too, and they often raided the containers and helped themselves.”
For his extraordinary dedication to the bats and other wildlife of Niue, Bat Conservation International has honored Misa Kulatea a special Certificate of Appreciation Award.

Protecting Mexico’s Bat Caves

Bat Conservation International is launching a major new initiative to identify and conserve bat caves in northern Mexico. Many of this region’s bats migrate back and forth across the border, spending their winters in Mexico and summers in the United States. They are vital to the environmental health of both regions.

A critical first step in this long-term effort was the recent publication of the Spanish-language book: Murciélagos Cavernícolas del Norte de México (Cave-Dwelling Bats of Northern Mexico). Written by BCI Founder Merlin D. Tuttle and Mexican biologist Arnulfo Moreno, it was produced with the support of BCI Trustee Eugenio Clariond Reyes, Grupo Imsa, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund and other partners.

The book should prove an important bat-conservation tool along the U.S./Mexico Borderlands. It introduces the values and conservation needs of cave-dwelling bats of the region and explains management strategies to ensure the bats and their economic benefits are protected. BCI and its partners are distributing copies of Murciélagos Cavernícolas del Norte de México to key landowners, government agencies, biologists and others in northern Mexico to help build a new commitment for bat conservation and lay the foundation for efforts to protect these crucial bat habitats. The next phase of the program will involve field surveys to document needs, educate landowners and managers and set conservation priorities. This will begin as soon as funds become available.

BCI’s Greatest Hits on DVD

Bat Conservation International’s most popular videos are now available on DVDs. The award-winning Secret World of Bats, Building Homes for Bats and Kids Discover Bats have all been digitized and remastered to provide state-of-the-art images and audio.

Discover Bats!, our multimedia educator’s kit that uses the magic of bats to teach subjects from science and social studies to reading, writing and math, now includes both VHS video and a DVD of a re-edited version of Secret World of Bats. These new DVDs are available at BCI’s online catalog at www.batcatalog.com. And while you’re there, check out our redesigned and more user-friendly catalog for all your bat-related educational, fun, jewelry and gift items. The new online catalog is just a taste of things to come from BCI’s Manager of Information Technology, John ‘Beej’ Nunn. A sleek new website will go online this fall with a host of features that will make your visit easier and a lot more fun.

Your help with any of these special needs will directly improve BCI’s ability to protect bats and bat habitats. To contribute or for more information, please contact Director of Development Emily Young at (512) 327-9721 or eyoung@batcon.org.


The Wish List

Saving a Rare Roost

The abandoned Pitney Butte Mine in eastern Washington state provides a nursery roost for Townsend’s big-eared bats and is likely used as a hibernation site as well. The species – a prime candidate for threatened or endangered status in Washington, where no more than 1,000 individuals are known to remain – clearly needs the mine. But the open entrances to Pitney Butte, located on public land that gets more than a million visitors a year, are a threat to people. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to seal the mine – unless BLM Wildlife Biologist Theresa Mathis can raise enough money to install bat-friendly gates over the three openings. She’s asking BCI’s North American Bat Conservation Partnership Conservation Fund to contribute $5,000 to this vital project.

The Right Tool for the Job

Building bat houses and more innovative alternative roosts, such as extremely promising experimental structures that mimic big hollow trees, often require getting the right tool to where the bats are, and that’s often beyond the reach of electric cords. BCI’s Bat House Project needs a cordless circular saw to get the jobs done in the field. A DeWalt DC390K 18-volt cordless circular saw kit costs $200.

Romania’s City-dwelling Bats

Countless bats in Romania have lost their forest habitats and must rely on urban buildings for roosts. But now they are under constant attack from city-dwelling humans because of prejudice and ignorance. Bats living in buildings are needlessly destroyed. Eliana Sevianu and colleagues at the Centre for Biodiversity Monitoring and Conservation have been working for nearly three years to educate their countrymen about the value of bats. The group now plans an aggressive education campaign and a bat-information center where people can find information on bats and on inexpensive and legal ways to evict those that become a nuisance without killing them. Sevianu requests a Global Grassroots Conservation Fund grant of $2,880 for this ambitious project.

Global Grassroots:
Bat Conservation on a Budget

You get a lot of bang for your bat-conservation dollar when you support BCI’s Global Grassroots Conservation Fund. The enthusiasm and ingenuity of local biologists and volunteers squeezes extraordinary accomplishments out of grants that mostly range from just $500 to $5,000.
In Romania, for example, a Global Grassroots grant helped implement a bat-monitoring system in three national parks, organize three bat-management workshops for park rangers and biologists, conduct baseline bat-population surveys at all three parks and produce an educational CD on bats and monitoring methods. That’s a lot to show for an investment of just $1,500.
Since January 2000, Global Grassroots has funded 43 such projects in 21 countries. These invariably are individuals and groups who know how to improvise and make do with whatever is at hand. The impact on bat conservation is almost beyond measure. In an isolated Brazilian village (top left), Global Grassroots financed installation of screens to seal homes against vampire bats that had led people to destroy many beneficial bats. As part of the project, villagers were educated about the value of bats. In the Philippines, community-based wildlife monitoring was established, fruit-bat studies were undertaken, education programs were presented at 17 schools, and a youth theater group (bottom left) was formed to present a conservation message. Yet every year, we must reject excellent proposals for no reason other than a lack of money. This year is no exception. That’s where you come in. Magnify your impact by supporting Global Grassroots. To help support the Global Grassroots Conservation Fund, please contact BCI’s Department of Development at (512) 327-9721 or development@batcon.org.

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All articles in this issue:
Creating the Bracken Bat Cave & Nature Reserve
Fission-Fusion
The Pitaya Connection
News & Notes
Taboo or Not Taboo

Unless otherwise noted, all images are copyright ©Merlin D. Tuttle and/or ©Bat Conservation International