by Nils Bouillard, Barbastella Echology
What exactly is International Bat Night?
International Bat Night takes place on the last full weekend of August, it’s an event that’s pure outreach so that means it’s all about the general public, not just the bat crazy people.
Getting the larger community involved in bat work isn’t easy. It’s definitely not as easy as asking people to count birds at their garden feeders in the winter or butterflies in their flower boxes. Bat work often requires expensive equipment and skills to be able to correctly identify and interpret the behaviour of free-flying bats.
So International Bat Night has been, since its inception, an opportunity for many people, across Europe (and beyond) to discover the world of bats. Having one day a year where people learn to expect events near them greatly helps reach more people - it’s a unified call from the whole world, instead of just your local bat group shouting on social media.
How did it all start?
When it was first organised, in 1997, the European Bat Night was limited to a handful of countries. Since then, most of Europe has joined and countries such as Australia have added themselves as well, creating the International Bat Night as we know it, or should I say, as we knew it. It’s pretty obvious that the majority of the world map was left out of this important event.
How did I get involved?
I first started thinking about including more countries during my Big Bat Year so I kept asking the people I met if they would be interested. At the time, I had no real idea how this would work, but I wanted to get people from all over the world involved in one single event, celebrating bat conservation. Most people were very enthusiastic when hearing the idea, even though some did raise concerns about having to pick one single date for the whole world, which makes it difficult because of seasonal changes across hemispheres. I wasn’t sure how to go ahead with this idea so I left it alone for a bit.
Then COVID hit, and our social and professional lives moved online. When I realised this enabled possibilities that were unthinkable before, I went back to my International Bat Night idea and started working on it again, with a fresh new perspective.
It’s pretty clear by now that I haven’t invented anything, nor am I trying to reinvent the wheel, I’m simply building on the foundations laid down by countless volunteers in Europe and Australia. Instead, with this year’s online event, I’m offering a platform where any bat worker anywhere in the world can talk about their work and interact with the general public. In addition to the in-person events scattered across Europe, the International Bat Night 2021 edition will have one massive online event, running for probably around 18 hours! That’s 18 hours of videos, drawing workshops, live presentations and live bat walks from around the world.
All continents that have bats will be represented, totalling no fewer than 41 countries! Examples include El Salvador, Zambia, South Korea, Bulgaria, New Zealand, and many more. Talks will be open to anyone, with no prior experience required. While some contributions will focus on the work they do with bats, others will instead help people understand various aspects of bat biology and their conservation. We’ll even have a presentation on how the famous IUCN Red List is put together! A world first!
How can you get involved?
This year, we are hoping to establish a foundation upon which we can create the world’s biggest celebration of bats and their conservation. If you want to be a part of International Bat Night, you can find out more, or check out the event livestream via YouTube.