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Mexico – False Vampire bats aren’t a pain in the neck

Written by and photos courtesy of Laura Torrent & Andrea Morales

Our first experience with the Mexican tropical forest and the amazing bat species has been incredible. A normal day for us started at late morning with a nice breakfast with tropical fruits (mango, zapote mamey, guayas, chicozapote) followed by data entry from the previous night plus telling all the staff how the survey went. After a delicious local cuisine and sometimes a short nap we prepare the equipment and plan how we are going to spend the night. We always prefer to set up the nets in the early afternoon to properly choose the best sites however sometimes the weather doesn’t allow us to follow our normal schedule. This makes our days more interesting. Around 7pm we meet the students and give them a first introduction about the bat surveys in Calakmul and its importance. The walk to the transects is full of excitement for the unexpected furry flying creatures that are awaiting for us. The time to open the nets has arrived and we teach the students how to properly open the nets and how we are going to use the equipment. The waiting time varies depending on the bat activity we have but the night is full of mysterious sounds and unique creatures. You never know when a frog will pass by our processing area or when the howler monkey screams will break the silence.

 

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One of our favourite nights was in Mancolona camp where we suddenly found a False vampire (Vampyrum spectrum) almost escaping from one of the nets. After spending 5 minutes trying to figure out how to remove such a massive specimen and another 10 minutes doing it, we headed back to processing area and we got lost because of overwhelming excitement. Then when we finally arrived to the process area we looked Alex (the other Bat Team Member) into the eyes and screamed: “we got it” and she and the students couldn’t believe it. Taking the measurements of that bat was a real challenge but at the same time we enjoyed the whole process until the second we released him. The students loved him as much as we did and we believe they will never forget that moment. The night had another surprise for us (especially for Laura) when Alex screamed while closing the nets: “Centuriooo” and Laura flew towards the nets to remove her first Wrinkle-Faced Bat (Centurio senex). Students were fascinated by the species peculiar face and they enjoyed taking pictures of it.

 

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Along these 8 weeks we have always enjoyed watching student’s expressions change each time they see their first bat, it is a mix between surprise and fascination. Most of these guys have never seen a bat so close before and the idea they have of them is usually full of misinformation. For that reason, we always focus on the environmental roles that bats play in our ecosystems and how beneficial their presence is for us. No matter which transect or which camp we are in the bats are always there and at the end the students and us always thoroughly enjoy the experience. We will never forget this adventure where we found awesome places and bats while meeting passionate people about wildlife from different countries.

“ If you love bats Calakmul is the perfect place for you”
Andrea Morales

“Calakmul reserve is the perfect spot to introduce scientists, students and curious people into the fascinating world of bats”
Laura Torrent

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