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Superstitions Harmful to Bats

May 30, 1996

* The article on the mythological beast terrifying Mexico (May 19) illustrates one of the difficulties that conservation biologists have in their attempt to save endangered species. Fear of the imagined "goat-sucker" monster created a hysterical reaction in which colonies of bats were torched in their caves. At this time of year those caves are almost certainly nursery colonies containing mothers and their babies.

To make matters worse, some bats are clinging to existence only by the presence of very few remaining roosting sites. Tragically, superstition and a lack of understanding have brought many bat species to the brink of extinction.

Why should anyone be concerned about the fate of bats? As the primary predator of night-flying insects, bats play a critical role, not only in the ecosystem but in economics as well. By controlling dangerous agricultural pests, bats protect human food resources and the livelihoods of farmers.

Far from their maligned reputation as savage, bloodthirsty killers, these small harmless mammals are an important wildlife resource. A widespread misunderstanding of the nature of bats exists both in Mexico and the United States.

AL KISNER

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