Tuesday 9 October 2012

Will bats have a Happy Halloween?

The Bat Conservation Trust's Director of Communications Heather McFarlane explains why she'll be going batty at Halloween
All over the world bats are popping up, in supermarkets and in pubs, hanging along school halls and peeking out of windows. Nope - this is not a sudden population boom, the bats we see at this time of year regrettably are mostly made of plastic.   

Three cute pipistrelle bats
photo - Catherine Beazley/BCT
For those of us that already know and love our British bats it is hard to see how such tiny, gentle and social creatures could ever have got tangled up in such a spooky image.  Our bats eat moths and midges not bite necks and suck blood. Even more peculiar is that come Halloween our bats will most likely be hibernating not flying around derelict mansions.

Isn't it strange that for most of the year bats are not at the forefront of peoples’ minds then at the time of year when they are disappearing from our skies they are seen all around us for all the wrong reasons.
 BCT pumpkin
So why does the Bat Conservation Trust embrace Halloween?
While bats are not spooky they are dark and mysterious, that’s part of their appeal, and Halloween is all about celebrating magic and mystery, so perhaps hanging up plastic bats isn't such a strange thing to do.  Bats are an icon for a night time world very different to our own and there is still so much to learn about them. Some people do find the unknown scary personally I find it thrilling, it is what makes bats so captivating.

So if nothing else Halloween is a great time to celebrate the mystery and beauty of bats.  But for me there are other reasons why I think the bat conservation movement should hijack Halloween for our own ends. 

 Halloween is a great day for bat myth busting!

BCT Helpline
It is often said that fears stems from misunderstandings.  Here at the Bat Conservation Trust this is where we can help!  Our Bat Helpline (0845 1300 228) is there for any questions or concerns about bats and to help with any injured bats found. In my experience people aren’t scared by plastic bats, but it is often misheard information that sets people on edge. Not only are bats not blood suckers, they are not going to get caught in your hair and they won’t cost you the earth if you want to build a loft conversion, just a little bit of planning.  So at a time when everyone is aware of bats anyway, we can insert the much needed facts and information into the bat fiction whilst celebrating the wonder of bats at the same time, perfect! But there is one more thing about Halloween that really means it should be for bats.

If people are decorating their living rooms with bats and eating bat shaped sweeties why can’t get bats get something out of it too? 
BCT's Shirley Thompson at the
Whitby Goth Weekend
If we had a £1 for every bat image used at Halloween so many more bats could be protected! So with this in mind we have developed a Halloween fundraising pack.  Our hope is that people will download the pack and transform their Halloween celebrations into something positive for bats.  If you are celebrating Halloween we’re hoping you’ll go on our site, downloaded our pack full of Halloween activities and ideas, pick up a few bat facts and do a bit of fundraising and myth busting at the same time. To be honest using Halloween to benefits bats is nothing new the wonderful Whitby Gothic Festival patrons  and stallholders have been fundraising around Halloween for the last 15 years.  They have held raffles, bring and buys, auctions and asked for donations at the annual festival raising over £30,000 to date!  This year we hope people all over the country will help us raise £3000 for bat conservation over Halloween.

The rest of the year we celebrate the other side of bats; we work with everyone from policy makers to schools to build the association between bats and healthy environments whether they are urban parks, woodlands managed for wildlife, or homes and buildings. Between spring and autumn we build the image of bats darting across warm summer skies at events and in the media.  We give people the chance to experience bats first hand in the hope that they will associate bats with evenings spent bat watching in night-scented gardens. But in October as the nights draw in and bats head for hibernation we shift our focus, we try to spark people’s imagination, some people will have never thought more deeply about bats than as a Halloween decoration but and we try to get a few more people hooked on bats longer term, or at the very least give people the chance to learn a little more about bats and their conservation needs.

So maybe next weekend I’ll be packing away the bat detector for the year and dusting off the glittery bats wings ready for a fancy dress party (but I certainly won’t be wearing any fangs!). And when Halloween rolls round I’ll tell everyone about what my costume means and gently explain how we can help out our mysterious creatures of the night all year round. So this October I hope you all have a very Batty Halloween!

If you are interested in fundraising for the Bat Conservation Trust visit www.bats.org.uk/halloween for lots of hints and tips and to download our pack

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