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Documentary Highlights Fight to Save Endangered Bats

Antionette Kerr

LINVILLE, N.C. – Bats are among the most misunderstood mammals, and a documentary showing at The Grandfather Mountain Nature Museum next month celebrates a conservation victory for one endangered bat species.

Nikki Robinson, communications and outreach associate at the Blue Ridge Conservancy, said the documentary was the result of a four-year collaboration between local, state and federal partners. Appalachian State University produced the short film that Robinson said helps audiences better understand the nocturnal creature.

“With this documentary, we can tell this really fascinating story that actually gets up close and personal with our North Carolina bats,” Robinson said. “And it’s been great because I’ve heard so many reactions from people like, ‘Wow, I never thought of bats as being so cute.'”

Robinson said bats are important to North Carolina’s ecosystem because they help to control the insect population, which in turn, decreases reliance on harmful pesticides.

When the North Carolina Department of Transportation proposed widening state Highway 105 in 2010, the Endangered Species Act mandated certain precautions. After a rigorous search over the Grandfather Mountain terrain, scientists detected a bat signal coming from a cave opening where they discovered 300 Virginia big-eared bats.

With coordinated efforts led by the Blue Ridge Conservancy, groups raised $1 million to purchase more than 170 acres to protect the bat habitat permanently.

“These bats are incredibly sensitive, and human disturbances put them on the endangered species list,” Robinson said. “The goal of all these agencies is to get them off of that list one day, and land conversation is a huge part of achieving that goal.”

Robinson said this project demonstrates the importance of collaborations to protect rare habitats and working farmland, as well as preserving the recreational opportunities that make North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains such a popular tourist destination.

The short film will be shown on April 6 at the Grandfather Mountain Nature Museum. More information is available at blueridgeconservancy.org.

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