Things batty at Gov’s house

Governor Duncan Taylor is doing his part to help protect Cayman’s dwindling numbers of bats by working with the National Trust for the Cayman Islands to install a bat house on the grounds of Government House along Seven Mile Beach. 

The bat house has been erected on the top of a 30-foot post in the rear gardens facing Seven Mile Beach.  

The Cayman Islands has nine species of bats, which live in large colonies; however, ongoing development is causing a real threat as bats lose their natural habitat. Bat houses help to replace some of the homes they have lost due to deforestation and repeated disturbance of caves. 

Paul Watler, environmental programmes manager of the National Trust, says that high-profile support for Cayman’s bats is important since they suffer from a number of misconceptions. 

“Many people believe that bats spread diseases, or they drink blood, or that they cause damage to people’s homes. In fact, the diseases commonly associated with bats in other countries do not exist in Cayman, vampire bats do not occur here and bats do not damage homes,” he said.  

Governor Taylor said he was delighted to work with the National Trust to have the bat house installed and was looking forward to the positive benefits that bats bring. 

“Firstly, the bats help keep the number of pests, such as mosquitoes, down as the bats eat them. Secondly, the bat house helps preserve their numbers and thirdly, the location of the post makes a wonderful conversation piece with guests as we can sit in the garden and watch the bats fly in and out,” he said. 

A single bat can eat up to 2,000 mosquitoes and other insects, including crop and garden pests, every night. In addition, some species of bats also feed on nectar or pollen, and in doing so, pollinate flowers, which is important for developing fruit, as well as a healthy ecosystem. Bat houses can only provide habitat for three of the Cayman Islands’ nine species – the other bat species need forest and cave habitat to survive.  

Recently retired Lois Blummenthal was instrumental in spearheading the campaign to help protect bats in Cayman, working as the coordinator of the Caribbean Bat Conservation Project for Bat Conservation International and director of the Bat Conservation Programme for the National Trust. The Trust’s bat programme has now been handed over to Mr. Watler, who hopes to continue working to protect Cayman’s bats.  

“Development brings with it a threat to Cayman’s natural heritage called habitat change,” Mr. Watler said. “Habitat change is one of the five big threats to the natural world, and as such, it is certainly a problem for Cayman’s bats. The forests and caves that they depend on are being changed irreversibly. The best way for the average person to lend assistance is to place a bat house on their property, or to plant native trees. This will provide Cayman’s bats with a place to roost in the daytime, and sustenance for foraging at night. Of course, we encourage everybody to become a member of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands and support our work to protect the future of Cayman’s heritage.”  

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From left, Governor Duncan Taylor and his wife Beatrice Taylor, with Paul Watler, environmental programmes manager of the National Trust for the Cayman Island, stand in front of the bat house, which is to be erected in the grounds of Government House. – Photo: Joanna Lewis

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Some bats in Cayman need caves as their habitat as these seen in Cayman Brac. – Photo: File
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