Written by and photos courtesy of Tally Yoh
Cover photo courtesy of Andrea Rivas
From the aeroplane window I realised Mexico would be nothing like I expected. My first time travelling, I was certainly a sucker for all the media hype. The TV forgot to mention anything about the endless expanse of greenery and a sky alive with shooting stars. I came to the Mexico forest site as a ‘’pseudo-dissertation’’ student; 6 weeks specially tailored to working with bats. Sweet nectar feeders, fruit eaters, buzzing insect feeders, allusive carnivores and world renowned vampires; with over 130 species Mexico has them all! For me it was all about the vampires, who doesn’t want to see Dracula incarnate? I certainly wasn’t disappointed as the Yucatan has 2 of the world’s 3 species; The Common Vampire (Desmodus rotundus) and the Hairy-Legged Vampire (Diphylla ecaudata). By 3 weeks in I’d lost count of how many we’d seen but they were always a welcome addition to the mist net.
The mist netting process itself took a while to get the knack of. In the first 2 weeks there was a lot of fumbling, all too often ending wrapped up myself! Thankfully the bat staff were extremely patient teachers (always happy to untangle me from the self-made cobweb). Nevertheless practice makes perfect and 6 nets, 6 nights a week is a great way to crash course through. Soon enough with the mist nets mastered it was time for the extractions. After 2 years working with UK bats I’m still a year or two away from being allowed to handle bats at home. Here, within a week, I had a bewildered Jamaican Fruit Eating bat (Artibeus Jamaicensis) in my hand. Not only is 6 weeks’ worth of experience extracting, processing and handling bats invaluable as far as a future career in bats is concerned, it was also an unforgettably amazing experience.
In total I was lucky enough to see over 700 bats from 27 species across 6 taxonomical families. Even in the last week there were still new species to find; never a dull moment. I also had a fantastic opportunity to meet professional bat workers from a variety of fields, all with different skills and experiences. At the end of a busy night we could sprawl into the hammocks as a team, hot chocolate in hand and the Milky Way visible above. As well as the bats the people I’ve met made this trip. They’ve given me a wonderful new perspective on conservation and many I would call friends. Now at the end of the trip the thing I’m most looking forward to is finding the next available opportunity I can to come back to this beautiful, diverse country.