Education is fundamental to the success of any conservation or wildlife management project. Despite their ecological importance bats suffer from a very negative public perception, and are often feared, misunderstood and persecuted (Kunz & Parsons 2009).
Raising public awareness about the importance of bats and biodiversity is vital to the conservation of these poorly understood animals (Walsh & Morton 2009).
COmmunity Facilitator Network
ABC has a strong history of public and community engagement to promote science and ecology in Malawi. We have community outreach workers at each of our study sites who conduct community level engagement events through focus groups, one to one meetings and church meetings. We do this through establishing networks of community facilitators. These facilitators enable us to engage closely with communities and collect data about human bat conflict as well as report any issues so that we can assist through our bat helpline service. Currently we are working in 40 communities covering central and southern regions of Malawi.
We have conducted 91 community events and meetings in 2016, engaging 481 people, and have distributed over 637 awareness materials (including leaflets and posters). Within Malawi we have also engaged in and organised awareness events the UNICEF children’s festival Malawi, the World Environment Day event and the Ban Ivory Trade march in Lilongwe, and in the UK have regular awareness stands at the Festival of Nature in Bristol.
Bat HelpLine Service
Due to their roosting habits, bats often come in conflict with people by occupying the roofs of houses, schools and community centers. This can result in disturbance from noise and droppings which accumulate in the attic. In many cases pest control agencies are called in and the roost is fumigated and the bats destroyed. ABC receives many enquiries to ask for assistance with bats causing conflict issues in the communities. We are establishing a telephone helpline service whereby communities experiencing bat conflict issues (e.g. bats occupying their house or destroying crops) will be able to get advice and mitigation assistance to reduce conflict and promote coexistence between bats and people. We will provide a house visit service whereby trained Malawian helpline advisers will visit communities and engage in active conservation and human-wildlife conflict resolution. This project is being conducted in partnership with the education team at Lilongwe Wildlife Trust and the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) in the UK. BCT provide a Bat Helpline telephone service in the UK, providing expert advice and roost visits in the UK and receive over 10,000 enquiries each year.
Visit the Wildlife Assistance Helpline page for more information!
Bat Discovery Trail
With Outreach Grant funding from the British Ecological Society we are currently developing an Interpretative Bat Discovery Trail (IBDT) at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre (LWC) in the Capital City Lilongwe. LWC has a wilderness trails area used by the public and also by education groups from across the city (>150,000 school children visits in 2015). We will install the IBDT in the wilderness area which can be used by the public as they wander around as well as organised education groups through the LWC education programme. The IBDT will raise awareness of the human and ecological benefits of bats and link to the ABC urban bat ecology research programme which is being conducted in Lilongwe. The IBDT will contain bat boxes at which trained tour guides can demonstrate bats to schools and the public, who will be able to view bats using internal live remote camera linked to screens at the LWC public interpretation centre. The trail will have signage which will outline the ecological role of bats, the biology of bats, and the ecosystem services provided by bats. IN addition we will develop leaflets about bat ecology and how to mitigate human bat conflict which will be distributed to the public at the LWC entrance, along the IDBT and at the Interpretation centre. We will conduct bat awareness events at LWC on key dates in including World Animal Day, International Bat Night, and World Environment Day and World Wildlife Day.
Bats on the Brink - Schools Programme
In partnership with the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT) we are developing a range of education programmes targeted at community schools covering the ecological and economic significance of bats, biodiversity conservation, and human-bat conflict. These programmes, developed by our own Malawian educator in partnership with LWT, will be integrated into the national Eco-Schools programme, to be rolled out nationwide in 2015. Eco-Schools is an international programme which is part of the The Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). LWT is responsible for developing the Eco-Schools programme in Malawi in collaboration with the Wildlife Environmental Society of Malawi. Find out more about the Eco-schools programme here.
Education and awareness Materials
What can bats do for you? leaflet - download it here.
Fertilize Your Crops for Free with Bat Guano leaflet English - download it here.
Fertilize Your Crops for Free with Bat Guano leaflet Chichewa - download it here.