Bats Come Home to Roost at Elachee

By Amy McDonald, Gainesville Times originally published February 6, 2016

Shrouded in myth and legend as well as associated with vampires and dark superheroes, bats have come to symbolize all that humans fear. But their true purpose and value has long been overlooked.

“Bats are much more important to us, to what they do for us, than the harm they can to do humans or our way of life,” said Peter Gordon, director of education at Elachee Nature Science Center in Gainesville.

He said bats cause much less harm than most humans think.

“There are so many stereotypes and misinformation about bats,” Gordon said.

Seeking to debunk those myths and eradicate those negative stereotypes, Elachee welcomes its first traveling exhibit in over a decade, (an exhibit) about the nocturnal mammals. “Masters of the Night: The True Story of Bats” brings to light the creatures’ benefits in ecosystems across the world and incredible adaptations for survival.

The exhibition is open from 1-5 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays in Elachee’s visitor center, 2125 Elachee Drive. “Masters of the Night” will be open until May 8, 2016.

Admission is $8 per person. Elachee members receive a 50 percent discount. All visitors must pay at the door. 

Included in the exhibit are examples of how bats help the ecosystems in various biomes, a major ecological community type such as tropical rain forest, grassland or desert. In North Georgia, native bat species act as population control by eating insects, such as mosquitoes, which benefits humans and bats.

Visitors also will learn how bats communicate, hunt for prey and locate their young in a cave full of its mammal brethren. Two interactive stations provide an accurate experience of how bats’ ears detect sound from large distances with surprising clarity.

With such exhibits, children and adults can enjoy “Masters of the Night,” especially since kids are encouraged to touch certain elements. And one table allows children to make rubbings of bats to remember the experience.

“This is a great opportunity for moms and dads, and boys and girl to come out and learn about bats,” Gordon said.

Though the exhibit hosts a large variety of information regarding bats, no live species are on the premises for the duration of the exhibit.

“Live bats ... will be the one Saturday of every month,” Gordon said. EXHIBIT DETAILS

A bat expert will give a presentation as visitors see the animals in action.

These Saturdays will include festivities such as a scavenger hunt through the museum, face-painting and guided hikes along Elachee’s trails. The cost is the same price as regular admission into this exhibit.

A joint project between Elachee and their corporate sponsor, Murrayville Veterinary Clinic, “Masters of the Night” is expected to “draw folks out of the community,” Gordon said. And it has already had an impact.

“I learned a lot about bats that I didn’t know,” Murrayville Veterinary Clinic office manager Dianna Fuller said.

Elachee also will invite elementary and middle schools to bring students for a visit. The staff has created a curriculum alongside the exhibit to parallel with STEM standards.

“A big focus of ... our education program is to work with environmental science and technology,” Gordon said.

For more information or reservations, call 770-535-1976.