By Rachel Penrod, USFWS
It's National Pollinator Week!
Did you know bats are pollinators too?
Our Wildlife Without Borders grantee, Rodrigo Medellin does.
When Rodrigo started doing bat conservation in Mexico in 1990, he knew it would be an uphill battle to save Mexico's more than 30 endangered bat species. People tend to see bats as flying rodents -- not as the animals who give them mosquito-free evenings, fruits, and flowers. So Rodrigo decided he wouldn't just study bats, he would teach people to love bats as much as he did.
To combat bats' image problem, Rodrigo put together a team of scientists and educators to help people understand how important they are to their communities -- from eating up all the nasty biting insects, to pollinating and spreading out seeds in all of the forests and fields.
Rodrigo Medellin, Wildlife Without Borders grantee, studies bats at Pinacate. (Photo: Program for the Conservation of Mexican Bats)
Rodrigo's project, the Program for the Conservation of Mexican Bats, combines research, education, and action to help save Mexico's bat populations. Rodrigo and his team have re-discovered the flat-headed bat, a species scientists thought was extinct. They've succeeded so well in conserving the lesser long-nosed bat that it's about to be taken off the Mexican Endangered Species list.
In the past ten years, the program received four awards from the Whitley Fund for Nature and one from the Rolex Award for Enterprise. This year, Princess Anne of England presented Rodrigo with the coveted Whitley Gold Award. Our Wildlife Without Borders-Mexico program has awarded Rodrigo's conservation team more than $150,000 in grants, which they matched with $335,000 in leveraged funds.
His team has put together what Rodrigo calls the best conservation education program for bats in the world -- and he's not joking. With their help, 22 communities living near priority bat caves have grown from being bat-detractors to being bat champions! Other countries are asking Rodrigo how he did it, and his team is bringing their unique approach important bat areas all over Central America.
We'd like to give kudos to Rodrigo, and his team, for teaching us to love and appreciate our pollinators!
Rachel Penrod is Outreach and Education Coordinator in the Division of International Conservation for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.