Bats aren’t bad: Why you should help save, not slander, them

‘I wish everyone knew how wholly and completely good bats are’

Mariana fruit bats, also known as flying foxes or fanihi, are medium-sized bats with dark fur.
Mariana fruit bats, also known as flying foxes or fanihi, are medium-sized bats with dark fur. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Bats are in desperate need of a new public relations team.

They’ve been blamed for causing the COVID-19 pandemic, accused of carrying disease, and have been wrongly labeled flying rats. Thankfully a few groups are working to change the narrative about these furry, and almost always cute, nocturnal creatures.

I reached out to Nate Marshall, author of the Twitter account and host of the podcast @GiveBatsABreak, for his expert help. Marshall told me he started the Twitter account that now boasts more than 14,000 followers in order to replace bad myths with good ones.

“Beyond any fact or figure, I wish everyone knew how wholly and completely good bats are,” he said.

Perhaps you saw the viral video of Statler, the Indian Flying Fox who gained internet fame at the Bat World Sanctuary in Texas early this year while taking simulated flights with his handler after he was too old to stretch his wings and fly on his own. A species not native to the United States, Statler was a Michigan resident for a few years living at the Organization for Bat Conservation in Pontiac before it closed abruptly.

Statler was the oldest known bat in captivity and died earlier this year, but the work of the Bat World Sanctuary continues with bat-saving rescue and education.

“There are 1,435 known species of bat and they get comparatively few conservation dollars because, frankly, they aren’t seen as worth saving,” Marshall said.

But bats are worth saving, and right now they are at risk due to habitat destruction and white nose syndrome, a fungal infection deadly to bats. Lack of knowledge of how beneficial they are as both pollinators and pesticides -- a bat can eat up to half their body weight in insects every night -- make them an easy punchline and target by those who see them as a dangerous intruder.

Want to create a welcoming environment in your backyard and gain the full benefit of bats? Think about installing a bat house in your backyard, especially if it’s mosquito-prone. The Bat World Sanctuary has helpful information on their website about finding or building the right bat house.

Want more information on bats? Check out the links below:


About the Author:

Susan Reinke has worked in the WDIV newsroom for seven years. She has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Communications from Wayne State University in Detroit. A fan of race cars, "Real Housewives," and all things strange and unusual, she lives in Grosse Pointe Park with her husband and three cats.