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Blind to bats: Traditional prejudices and today's bad press render bats invisible to public consciousness

Lunney, D. and Moon, C. (2011) Blind to bats: Traditional prejudices and today's bad press render bats invisible to public consciousness. Australian Zoologist, Spec. Issue (35). pp. 44-63.


We have been struck by the paucity of coverage of bats in the media, even though they constitute a quarter of the Australian mammal fauna.The Microchiroptera are almost invisible to the public, but the Megachiroptera come to public attention mostly when camping in or near towns or in orchards.There is a public blindness to the reality of bats, their natural history, their ecology and conservation. Like most treatment of bats through the ages, Dracula, the 1897 novel by Irish author Bram Stoker featuring as its primary character the vampire Count Dracula, has left a legacy of a perception of bats as dark, evil, bloodsucking monsters. We gathered ancient and modern references to bats, from books, newspapers, radio and TV, the internet and other sources, to explore attitudes to bats. We examined a number of recent books and feel inspired at the change from the stereotypic images that have haunted so many books, especially children's books. There remains a pressing need for accurate information about bats to be entertainingly available to the public. The Australian Museum's 1999/2000 'Bats' exhibition filled this need, with a most appropriate headline: "Threatened and misunderstood". Our conclusion is that the public has a blindness to bats, and therefore to the issues surrounding their conservation and management. We did find that people do care about individual bats, and that education helps counter the negative perceptions. We turn to education and research as the primary formula for seeking to understand and manage bats. Rather than turn away from the rich heritage of prejudice about bats, it is our view that such bizarre interpretations of this magnificent order of animals can be the springboard to their salvation. There is also the critical matter of their keystone role in our native ecosystems. Bats are a fabulous subject for educational programs and a rich source of scientific investigation, from fossils and reflections on evolution to studies on their ecology in commercial contexts, and as support for the frontline fight to conserve our forests and our caves, and to live in a sustainable society for the next 1000 years.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales
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