Rodrigo Medellín, a Mexican conservationist is battling many kinds of threats to bats, but the greatest threat he is determined to overcome is ignorance.
As superior pollinators and insect predators, bats are, with a few exceptions, valuable assets to mankind. Rodrigo Medellín, head of the Program for the Conservation of Bats of Mexico, has spent more than three decades researching, teaching and campaigning to save bats in his country.
Bats are the most unfairly treated species in the world. We kill spiders and snakes, too, but the benefits from bats are much bigger. If you’re working for the conservation of whales, you don’t have an image problem.
Bats pollinate the flowers of many hundreds of species and disperse the seeds of many species that promote forest restoration. They are natural controllers of night-flying insect pests and consume almost the equivalent of their weight in crop pests each night.
Despite this, bat numbers are on the decline worldwide. Medellín is passionately committed to his cause, working in the field and laboratory and with governments and commerce, as well as educating the public.
Medellín’s activism is yielding results. He and his 30-member team of post-graduate students and colleagues identify priority sites among Mexico’s estimated 30,000 caves, and then develop management and recovery programmes for threatened species. In 2013, he and Mexican government officials declared the lesser long-nosed bat was no longer at risk of extinction. In 2015, Medellín formed an alliance with the United States-based Tequila Interchange Project to secure bat pollination of the blue agave plant – the source of Mexico’s greatest export, tequila. Long-nosed bats feed on nectar from the blue agave, but agricultural methods have put the plant’s future at risk, and thus, that of the bat. This project has already produced the first-ever certified bat-friendly tequila.
Bat species worldwide
Bat species that are endangered