The European Union BEST 2.0 programme approved a grant of 100,000 euro for an 18-month project aimed at bat conservation and protection on the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten. The funds will be made available to local nature conservation organisations through the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA), which is a non-governmental regional network in which the nature parks on all six Dutch Caribbean islands co-operate.
The implementation of this project will be done together with local communities and bat conservation experts. The overall objective is to increase bat populations and awareness on the important role bats play in the islands’ ecosystem. Bats are key pollinators, particularly of local vegetation including cactus, which are a major feature of the island biodiversity. Three of the target species of bats are endemic to the islands. By enhancing bat population numbers this project will have a significant and positive impact on the long-term sustainability of the flora and fauna of the islands.
The project aims on increasing bat numbers by increasing the amount of roosting and nesting sites in urban areas of the islands. This will be done by installing bat houses on private and public buildings. With an extensive education and outreach programme through schools, (social) media and organised events, local communities will be informed about the importance of bats for their island and asked to put a bat house on their house. Bat houses will be produced by local (technical) schools within a specially designed education programme, hereby involving local communities in bat conservation efforts.
Mr. Tadzio Bervoets, manager of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, is very enthousiastic: “All of us who work with these important creatures are really excited and appreciative of the IUCN for this important contribution to our local conservation efforts. Bats are very important for the survival of many of our islands’ flora and therefore for the whole ecosystem. Local bats are awesome and very interesting creatures and I hope this projects’ success will put bat conservation also high on the agendas of other Caribbean islands. “
The other participating islands share this enthusiasm. In Curacao Ms. Odette Doest, project leader for CARMABI and bat expert, is very happy with this funding: “As veterinarian working on Curacao I frequently encounter issues that are related to the negative image bats have. With this project and its outreach and education programme I hope we can change this perception and get more support for bat conservation on Curacao.”