One of the bat's natural predators is the Hollywood film industry. The
movie Bats, a recent release, portrays a fictional Texas town
attacked by mutant bats that have been engineered by a local scientist to
drink human blood.
Gary McCracken, professor in the UT department of ecology and evolutionary
biology, said the negative myths about bats exploited by Hollywood may make
preserving them more difficult.
"The negative perceptions that people traditionally carry are one of bats'
chief threats," said McCracken. "This is a horror movie that exploits the
public's lack of knowledge about the creatures."
Many of the 1,000 species of bats worldwide are threatened or endangered,
he said, and bat populations are in decline.
"There is no such thing as a vampire bat. The movie distributor is just
building hype. They know it's a low-grade movie," said McCracken, after
viewing the Web site promoting the movie.
The agricultural industry has a vested interest in preserving the bats.
McCracken recently attended a conference on bats in western Mexico. Some
bat species are responsible for pollinating the agave cactus which is used
to make tequila. The tequila industry is concerned with the decline of
these bat species.
The decline in bat population in central Texas and northern Mexico
threatens corn, cotton and tomato crops. Bats in these areas are
responsible for eating billions of corn ear worms, also known as the cotton
ball worm, each year. These worms are some of the most destructive
agricultural pests in the United States, McCracken said.
Unnecessary fear of the mammals translates into outright destruction of the
roosts when people find them, McCracken said.
"Bats are killed even when they offer nothing but benefits to humans," he
McCracken has been researching bat colonies in south central Texas since
1981. He is also the author of the entry on bats in the Encyclopedia of
American Folklore and Superstition and has written extensively on bats and
bat lore. He said that most of the myths about bats are the product of lack
McCracken serves on the advisory board of Bat Conservation International,
an organization devoted to preserving the mammals. He recommends contacting
the organization in Austin, Texas, at http://www.batcon.org/ or
(512)327-9721 for information about the preservation of bats and their
beneficial economic and ecological effects.
Bat populations suffer decline
Published: Thu Oct 28, 1999 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 02:01 p.m.