Monday 9 November 2020

Learning to be a bat carer

Blog by Dee Lawlor 

“It’s ok, I’m not a weirdo…”, the lady walking her Labrador didn’t seem convinced. In fairness, I was standing in a laneway staring agape at a bush, “…there’s bats!”. “Really?!”, she lit up. The pair of us spent the next twenty minutes standing in the laneway, excitedly pointing out every blurry little black dot that whizzed by. 

Three evenings before, I had been taking the shortcut home from the shops. It was dusk and my walking through the grass had disturbed a cloud of midges. Now, I hate midges because midges love me. And just as I was flailing a pint of milk - wildly trying to swat them away - I was rescued by a dark knight. A fur-caped crusader. A bat! Those midges didn’t stand a chance. 

“There’s bats! Bats! There’s bats in the thing!”, the groceries went cascading across the kitchen counter. “The what?”, my poor other half wasn’t expecting an excited tornado to come spinning in the door, “The lane–bats!” and I was back out the front door as fast as I had come in. 

I grew up in a family of animal lovers and I was the kid who knew the names of all the obscure animals in the zoo. The dream was always to be a zoologist. I was going to explore the far-flung corners of the world, saving animals and generally being the next David Attenborough. I did graduate in zoology but - like it has for many of us - the real world came knocking and the dream got shelved.

I had moved to Scotland in the autumn of 2017; it was now autumn 2018. We had just moved into a new house and I was building my career as a science writer. That evening, when I came across the bats, my first thought (ever the scientist) was that I needed to tell someone. A quick Google brought me to the Bat Conservation Trust website. I reported my sighting and signed up to be a batty benefactor. Since I was a young teenager, I have loved volunteering! I have been a museum curator, a wildlife tour guide, an environmental educator… anything zoology or natural sciences related, I wedged myself in there!

If you’re considering volunteering, or like the idea but are not sure, here are a few reasons you should give it a try:

  1. You get to do things most people don’t. I’ve done dental work on Palaeolithic deer, I’ve wrestled a Thylacine, catalogued human skulls, I’ve lectured and given tours, and I once held a raw diamond the size of a golf ball (and no, I didn’t get to keep it). Volunteering with animals gets you a front row, hands-on experience that you otherwise would never get.
  2. You get to see things most people don’t. The artefacts you see in a museum are but a tiny sample of the treasure chest. Most of them are hidden away in storage and will never see the light of day, but you will get to see them. You will get to see the work that is being done is helping save our wildlife and you get to see the positive impacts for yourself. 
  3. Volunteering opens doors for you that are otherwise very hard to get into. This is especially true for those who want to work with animals. Take note biology/ecology/zoology students, jobs working with animals are gold dust! Everyone wants them and those who have them don’t give them up easily. You need to get known. You’ll get known through volunteering. 
  4. You get the best of both worlds. You get the dream without having to make any radical life changes. This is my reason, and I have dubbed this technique ‘dream dabbling’.
For most of us, we are too deeply invested in normal life to go running off to rescue elephants in the Serengeti. We have jobs and laundry and bills! It’s now the spring of 2020 and my life has sufficiently calmed down to the point where I can dream dabble. I have registered with BCT to become a bat carer. I have my appointments for my vaccinations in February. Once those are done, I’ll then be matched up with a mentor to start my training. 

As George Eliot said, “It is never too late to be what you might have been”. So, here I am!

If you're interested in becoming a bat carer, click here for more information.

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