What is European Bat Night?

wiseGEEK Writing Contest

European Bat Night, or European Bat Weekend as it is called in the UK, is a celebration of bats, established by EUROBATS -- The Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats. Since 1997, the celebration is held annually on the last weekend of August, gradually gaining popularity among the European nations. An increasing number of European communities join the event every year, recognizing the important role of bats in the continent’s ecosystem.

In the beginning of the 21st century, the bat populations are in sharp decline throughout Europe. Some species have become extinct in certain countries. The fact worries many scientists, because bats only thrive in healthy natural environment. The decrease in their numbers indicates problems in ecology, problems that can threaten humans.

Losses of roosts and feeding areas coming with urbanization, together with the increased use of pesticides that poison the bats, contribute to the bats’ near extinction. Misunderstandings and prejudice, often arising from ignorance or ill-conceived urban myths, also play a great role in endangering the species. By introducing European Bat Night, EUROBATS aims to raise awareness about bats and their usefulness for the environment.

There are 45 different species of bats in Europe. Most of them eat flies, moths, and other insects, being the best insect-repellant known to people. Some European bats also serve as pollinators and seed distributors for many plants important to human habitations. In a score of fairy tales and legends, bats are associated with the Dark Side, being familiars to vampires and witches. In real life though, there are no blood-sucking bats in Europe, and only one fruit-eating bat, potentially damaging to fruit crops -- the Egyptian fruit bat.

As the only flying mammals on Earth, with the complicated migration maps and a complex, advanced system of echolocation, the bats inspire growing enthusiasm in Germany, Spain, UK, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Romania, and many other European countries.

Every year on the last weekend in August, the local groups of bat activists in tandem with the natural scientists and specialists in migratory species’ conservation arrange hundreds of bat walks, bat talks, lectures, and exhibits. The fun, bat-related activities appeal to many ecologically interested people as well as families with children. Some of the attractions children enjoy the most include bat walks at night and workshops for constructing bat-detection kits.

The bat walks offer people a way of seeing and hearing bats in their natural habitat, supplying better understanding of bats and their contribution to biodiversity in Europe. The devices called ‘bat detectors’ enable people to hear bats in flight. As bats use echolocation, emitting ultrasound to find their way, ‘bat detectors’ can tune into that ultrasound. The more elaborate ‘bat detectors’ can even determine what species of bats are present in the area.

While bat walks during the European Bat Nights often serve as entertainments and educational venues for the general population, a growing number of international scientific meetings and conventions related to bat conservation are scheduled year around. The forums like South-East Asian Bat Conference, Annual North American Symposium on Bat Research, and International Workshop on Dessert-dwelling Bats, to name a few, draw researchers and practitioners from all over the globe.

submitted by Olga Livshin