JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Zoo is working with Florida Fish and Wildlife to protect bats in Florida.
The Long-term Bat Monitoring program is a statewide effort to monitor and identify bat species in Florida. Bats play a major role in controlling pests.
“They do a huge service by eating bugs, mostly agricultural pests, but they do eat mosquitoes as well,” Associate Registrar at Jacksonville Zoo and Garden, Donna Bear, said. “If we didn’t have any bats, a lot of our industries would suffer, and they’d have to use a lot more pesticides and things like that just to keep things the way they are.”
Through the program, the zoo is using an acoustic monitoring device to record the calls bats make at night. Once the call is captured, it is slowed down and the species is identified.
“When you see the sonogram, you can determine what type of bat it is, what species it is and where they’re at,” Bear explained. He adds this information will help them if white-nose syndrome ever makes its way into the state.
The disease is not in Florida yet, but it is in several surrounding states and can devastate bat populations.
“We haven’t ever done a statewide survey like this before, so we know bats live here, we just don’t know exactly where,” Bear said. “So once and if hopefully it doesn’t happen which it probably will, once the virus is here it will make us better able to address it or try to do things to help them.”
This data will eventually be collected throughout the entire state. It is expected to take several years.