Caymanian Compass, April, 2002
By Lois Blumenthal
Caribbean Utilities (CUC) and the Cayman Islands Bat Conservation Programme are receiving international attention for their cooperative Bat House Project.
Bat Conservation International (BCI) recently sponsored a visit by Ms. Elaine Acker, editor of BATS Magazine to document the successful programme, which has become a model for the Caribbean region. “A lot of good things are finally happening for bats globally, as old misconceptions are dispelled and people come to realize the benefits that bats provide in terms of insect control, pollination and seed disbursal” commented Ms. Acker, “The Cayman Islands Bat House Project is one of the better efforts and the progress that has been made here is impressive.” Ms. Acker will feature CUC’s contribution to bat conservation and an overview of Cayman’s unique island species and the efforts to conserve them in an upcoming issue of BATS Magazine.
“CUC’s contribution to the project has been crucial,” said Lois Blumenthal, newly appointed Caribbean Bat Conservation Coordinator for BCI and well-known “Bat Lady” of the Cayman Islands, “utility poles are ideal supports for bat houses because they are taller and more storm resistant than ordinary poles. We now have dozens of used utility poles that CUC has donated and installed throughout Grand Cayman and this is resulting in fewer reports of bat problems in roof spaces.”
CUC’s equipment makes light work of a big job. Installing the bat houses on these tall poles would be impossible without their help.
Ms. Lois Blumenthal will be speaking about the Bat House Project and the important role of Cayman’s bats in the eco-system at a slide show presentation at the Seaview Hotel on April 25 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Dept. of Environment’s Earth Day activities. Admission is free and all are invited.
Bat houses provide much-needed habitat for Cayman’s Velvety Free-tailed Bats. These tiny bats are responsible for eating enormous numbers of insects including mosquitoes and moths that are crop and garden pests.
Velvety Free-tailed Bat – the workhorse of natural insect control in the Cayman Islands.
Because these bats have lost much of their natural habitat, they have been forced to roost in buildings and have become a nuisance to people. “As development brings animals and people closer together, the loser is usually the animal.” commented Ms. Blumenthal. “A big part of my job has been to help people successfully remove bats from their roofs. We don’t ask anyone to live with the problem, but only that they remove the bats using humane and environmentally sound methods. Bats do not chew wood or wires. They do not invade food stores or damage buildings in any way. The bats in Cayman do not carry diseases. Bats are only looking for a day-roost – a warm place to sleep – but the build-up of droppings makes them unwelcome in most roofs. By providing these bat houses we have a win-win project that helps people and gives the bats a new place to live.”
“Because these bats are one of our most common species, they are very important to the eco-system. It is important to save rare bats too, but for different reasons. The Velvety Free-tailed Bat is one of the most common bats in the Cayman Islands. It is the “work horse” in the environment – the one that has the most effect on insect populations. These bats eat literally tons of bugs every night. We don’t want to find out what life would be like without them!” said Ms. Blumenthal.
CUC's Manager of Corporate Communications, Caren Thompson said, "CUC is pleased to be able to contribute to the efforts of the Bat Conservation Programme and commends Ms. Lois Blumenthal for her tireless support of this project. We also thank the property owners who have given permission to the National Trust to allow CUC to install poles and install the bat houses where they would be most beneficial. By partnering with organisations such as the National Trust and volunteers, we are able to play a greater hands-on role in specific projects that will make a difference in our community. We realize the important role that bats play in our fragile eco-system and stand ready to do whatever we can to help manage their existence."
Ms. Blumenthal further thanked Northward Prison, for contributing the labour to build these bat houses, Ron Moser of the Machine Shop for designing the model especially fitted to CUC’s utility poles, Courtney Platt for the contribution of his photos, and the many other volunteers who have assisted with painting, monitoring, and managing these bat house installations. “I especially thank Dr. Merlin Tuttle of Bat Conservation International for his ongoing support over the past ten years. Bat conservation in the Cayman Islands has come a long way, and much is due to BCI’s willingness to provide us with literature, educational materials and financial support.”
Anyone with bat problems in their roof or wishing to have a bat house installed on their property should phone or email