Featured partner: Native Bat Conservation Program, Toronto Zoo
In the evening when the visitors have left and the Zoo sleeps, Ontario’s wild bats come out to play and the Native Bat Conservation Program Team begins collecting invaluable research. Our site in the Rouge Valley, with its large natural areas, is fantastic for bats. They hunt insects around our forests and ponds, and make their homes in our trees and some of our buildings. After catching my first bat at the age of 11, I am lucky to find myself in a dream job helping to develop this program. I am joined in this endeavour by Eryk Matczak, and Melissa Donnelly.
Much of our focus is on surveying and researching local bats – aiming to fill knowledge gaps that limit effective conservation. We use a variety of techniques to seek out Ontario’s bats and learn about what they are doing. Methods include acoustics, trapping, telemetry, and many late nights! We are lucky to work with a range of partners to access land and help them understand bats. Highlights include: finding a breeding population of northern myotis in a Toronto forest, radio-tracking little brown myotis through a city suburb, and helping several Ontario First Nations to launch their own bat monitoring programs.
A second aspect of our approach is public outreach. The Zoo welcomes more than a million visitors each year and has a high profile. We constantly seek ways to use this reach to promote positive views of bats. One successful idea is our ‘Bat Diaries’ series of fieldwork videos. We also organise outreach events and evening bat walks at the Zoo. This year we trialed a new event where we invited adult guests to join us on our ‘batio’ to enjoy a beer while watching bats foraging above. The event sold out and the bats arrived right on time – a successful evening we plan to repeat. These efforts help move our in-situ conservation, and bats, out from the ‘hidden zoo’ and into view.
Submitted by Toby Thorne, Bat Researcher with the Toronto Zoo