The Orlando Science Center will have the Halloween spirit early this year. The traveling exhibit called “Bats: Myths and Mysteries” will open to the public at noon on Saturday.
Inside will be dozens of bats — the real, live, flapping variety — hanging around, literally in big cages. One of the large, clear enclosures holds male straw-colored fruit bats from Africa. The other one sports females, Egyptian fruit bats from Africa and short-tailed fruit bats from South America.
The cages have plexiglass sides, which prevent the animals from flying off or above visitors.
Likewise, visitors aren’t allowed to pet them.
“They don’t like it,” says Rob Mies, executive director of the Organization for Bat Conservation, which is based at the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
The exhibit is designed to explain the value of bats to the ecosystem, and it features hands-on activities that highlight the diet of the animals, dispel myths (“Blind as a bat is not true at all,” Mies says), and demonstrate their high-powered hearing.
One contraption places giant ear-shaped funnels next to visitors’ heads to simulate how amplified sounds are for bats, compared with human hearing.
Brass busts of way-oversized heads show of the detail of different species’ faces, which may only be 1 inch wide in real life. Some of them appear to be grimacing. Some look like the love child of Stitch and Darth Vader.
“This wrinkle-faced bat is one of the weirdest animals I’ve ever seen,” says Mies, who has studied bats for more than 20 years and made national television appearances with Conan O’Brien, Martha Stewart and others.
With the busts, “what you get a chance to see and touch is the nose and the face and see how small their eyes are but how huge their ears are,” Mies says.
The bats are in the large exhibit area of the science center’s second floor. Until recently, it was home for a “Curious George” exhibit, and the museum intentionally aimed for an older audience this time, said J.J. Leissing, director of visitor experience for Orlando Science Center.
“We really loved what the Organization for Bat Conservation does to really hone in on that conservation, their adaptations, and because Florida has so many bats natively and locally we thought it was a great story to be able to tell and bring to the science center,” she says.
Expect the live animals to be centers of attention. The males can be quite active, scaling the ceiling of the enclosure and basically just being macho. They are the second-largest bat in Africa, and they are part of a hugh population, particularly in Zambia.
“Right now they’re all migrating across Africa –- 8 million straw-colored fruit bats are all migrating to this one national park because there’s really delicious fruit,” Mies says. “Can you imagine seeing 8 million bats with a 3-foot wingspan all flying off at the same time? People come from all over the world to see them.”
These guys are 3 to 6 years old and fully grown.
“They’re one of the more colorful bats. The males have this beautiful yellow color around their neck, Mies says. The females of this species are solid colored. “Most bats don’t have that striking difference between sexes.”
Nearby, the Egyptian fruit bats make clicking noises with their tongue. “In pitch darkness, they use those echoes to navigate as they fly through” caves, Mies says. The leaf-nose bats make noises with their noses, using a system similar to that of whales and dolphins.
The science center will have scheduled feeding times for the bats and opportunities to make “environmental enrichment devices,” Leissing says.
“They’ll be able to design things to put into the enclosures to change up their day,” she says. The museum also plans to have Halloween-themed activities.
There are 15 to 20 bat species in Florida, about a half-dozen in the Orlando area, including the big brown bat, Mies says.
“All of our bats around the Orlando region are insect-eating bats, which is wonderful,” he says. “They are the primary predators of nighttime insects. One bat usually eats 2,000 to 5,000 insects every single night.”
People aren’t as frightened by bats as they once were, and that’s a good thing, Mies says.
“We want to teach people that bats are really important both economically and environmentally,” he says. “We have a lot less bats around today than we did even 10 years ago.”
One way to boost the population is to build backyard bat houses, he says. (There are construction instructions — and houses for sale — at batconservation.org.) Not only does that increase the number of animals and decrease the number of insects, there’s a benefit to homeowners.
It gives bats an alternative “so they don’t live in your attic or behind your shutters,” Mies says.
“Bats: Myths and Mysteries” is included in regular admission to Orlando Science Center. A one-day ticket is $19 ($13 for ages 3-11). The exhibit will stay at the museum through Jan. 4. For more information, go to osc.org or call 407-514-2000.
Copyright © 2014, Orlando Sentinel
Bunch of bats ready for Orlando Science Center exhibit
bats insect – Yahoo News Search Results
bats insect – Yahoo News Search Results