A couple weeks ago, I got a chance to sit down with Bat World Sanctuary and meet bats over Instagram Live for our new “Did You Know?” series. Not only was it exciting to see these elusive and mysterious little guys up close, but it was an eye-opening educational experience that taught me to appreciate and admire everything about these amazing little creatures, despite their recent ties to Coronavirus. Scroll down to see the full video!
We all fear the unfamiliar
With everything happening in the world, it can be so easy to give into the panic: it seems like everyone is in search of something, or someone, to blame. At the heart of the chaos and confusion are bats, who have become the scapegoat for this worldwide pandemic, so I invited Kate Rugroden, the Vice President of Operations at Bat World Sanctuary  to help shed some light on this very sensitive and important topic.
What happened when we posted about bats on Instagram
As soon as we posted about our upcoming IG Live with Bat World, the comments started flooding in, and while most folks were excited to see it, a few of our followers were upset that we’d be discussing and showcasing bats at a time like this, with so much fear around the subject. However, we determined it was an opportunity not only to talk about the facts, but also to give people a chance to see the creature behind the rumors, and maybe even help ease people’s fears.
What I learned on the IG Live with Bat World Sanctuary
In chatting with Kate, not only did I learn that most bats don’t carry diseases transmittable to humans, I also learned these amazing bat facts:
- Bats don’t learn to fly from their mothers, but have a natural instinct and teach themselves.
- Just like puppies, pigs and kittens, bats love to play!
- Their coats range from soft and velvety to furry, like a kitten.
- Most bats are actually quite tiny, unlike the large, more scary-looking ones we often see in the movies.
- Bats are incredibly social creatures, many of whom love to live in large colonies, and many live to be over 20 years old!
- There are only three species of vampire bats in the world, out of over 1,400.
Hollywood doesn’t do bats justice
If you go by what you see in the movies, bats might seem to be gigantic, vicious, vampiric creatures who wait in the shadows for an unsuspecting human victim, but nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, all native North American bats only eat insects and are actually quite tiny, most weighing less than half an ounce. Bats, like most animals, don’t prefer to get close to humans, and if they are found on the ground or near humans, they might actually be sick and in need of care.
Wet markets may actually be to blame. Not bats.
Increasingly, research is showing that Coronavirus is linked to what are known as ‘wet markets,’ where there are typically large collections of open-air stalls where vendors sell and slaughter animals on site, including wild ones.  Though scientists have linked one specific wet market in China to the outbreak, they exist all over the world, even throughout the United States. Animals present in these markets can sicken workers and customers. Even if the virus is traced back to bats, pangolins, or some other critter in the wild, it’s ultimately our human activities that can be blamed for the transfer of the disease to humans.
Coronavirus has changed how we do things at Vegancuts
Everything around the world is changing, including the way we operate at Vegancuts: not only are folks becoming increasingly reliant on subscription and delivery services, but vegans in particular are looking for ways to support small brands in a safe way, without leaving their homes. To answer this need, we came out with three new boxes. And just like us, Bat Sanctuaries around the country have had to change how they work as well. More than ever, they’re in need of donations and support, not only because of the increasing unpopularity of the critters they care for, but because their food supply chains are impacted just like the rest of the world’s.
Coronavirus has changed how we relate to one another
Despite the collective feelings of separation and isolation, Covid-19 has inspired so many to find new ways of connecting. We’ve experienced positive short-term environmental changes, employers are finding innovative ways to retain their workforce, and communities are developing methods to support local businesses safely. Something I’ve enjoyed is a heightened sense of consciousness. It seems Coronavirus has given us a unique opportunity to rethink how we connect and reach out to one another, how and what (or who) we consume, and has redefined our relationship with nature.
How can you help?
Once you know the truth about bats; their environmental value, their sense of family and community, and especially once you meet one, it’s far easier to love than to fear them. They deserve our support, not our condemnation. We can help these creatures in numerous ways:
- We can financially support sanctuaries and rehabilitation organizations like Bat World Sanctuary
- We can learn how to safely handle bats we find on the ground, and contact organizations that rehabilitate rather than exterminate 
- We can share the information we learn about bats from reliable sources, like sanctuaries and wildlife education centers
- We can encourage our government officials to work to eliminate the wild animal trade
- Bat World Sanctuary
- National Geographic, “Coronavirus Linked to Chinese Wet Markets”
- Humane Society, “There’s a Bat in my House!”