Thursday, November 4, 2010

'The Bat Doctor' speaks to North Mac Virden students!

Dr. Austin (a.k.a. 'The Bat Doctor') Speaks to Virden Elementary Students about BATS!

On Tuesday October 26, 2010, Dr. Todd Austin had the opportunity to teach over 280 North Mac (Virden Elementary School) students about bats. Austin, a Virden Doctor of Chiropractic, has been an active member of Bat Conservation International (BCI) for twenty years.

Austin also became a member of Toastmasters in 1994. He is currently a member (and club mentor) of the Montgomery County Toastmasters Club which meets twice each month in Hillsboro, IL. Toastmasters has taught him how to take his love, passion and enthusiasm for the world’s only flying mammals and turn that into presentations that others can both enjoy and learn from. Austin, also known as ‘The Bat Doctor’, has been speaking to audiences of all ages about bats since 1996.
Austin enjoys speaking about how bats are beneficial to people and the environment. "Bats tend to be misunderstood by many of us due to human ignorance coupled with the fact that bats are nocturnal” explains Austin. “My mission as a BCI volunteer is to drum up as much good PR for bats as I can.”

Dr. Austin educated Virden Kindergarteners, 1st, 3rd and 4th graders on Tuesday with his Powerpoint slide presentation called “Vampires, Fruit Bats and Insect Eating Machines”. Austin has compiled a set of approximately 200 slides that he uses for his bat programs. Roughly half of the photos are courtesy of BCI founder and past president Dr. Merlin Tuttle, who is known as the ‘world’s leading bat photographer’. Many of the other slides are from Austin’s own personal encounters with bats over the years.

• Austin started out by dispelling the myth that bats are blind.

• He also told about how vampire bats actually lick up (not suck) the blood from birds and farm animals in Mexico and South America.

• He then stressed many of the ways bats are good for our environment.

o Kids were taught that a single Little Brown bat can eat 3,000 mosquitoes per night.

o They learned about how colonies of Big Brown bats help out corn farmers locally by eating millions of cucumber beetles, which prevents them from laying eggs that hatch into corn rootworms.

o They also heard about how bats in other parts of the world are essential for the survival of the rainforests, because they pollinate flowers and disperse seeds.

• Austin emphasized the fact that bats are wild animals that should never be touched.

• Austin also included a new feature this year. A three minute video of a big brown bat eating mealworms. Students got to view the bat eating from a bowl as well as being hand fed with a tweezers.

The students especially enjoyed the photos of an 8-day old red bat pup named Rupert, who was so young his eyes weren’t even open yet as well as the California Leaf-nosed bat with what look to be “rabbit ears”.

"While I enjoy speaking to audiences of all ages," says Dr. Austin, "children are the future guardians of our planet. A little bit of education at an early age can go a long way toward changing preconceived negative attitudes about these fascinating, beautiful and highly beneficial flying mammals."

Austin donated two books Flying Bats and Welcome to the World of Bats to the school library. Virden’s ‘Bat Doctor’ also left bat rings and bat facts cards for all the students.

Photo # 1 caption: Dr. Austin spoke to over 60 Virden 4th graders five days before Halloween 2010.

Photo # 2 caption: The Bat Doctor spoke to 85 North Mac (Virden) 3rd graders on Tuesday.

Photo # 3 caption: Virden’s Bat Doctor educated 65 North Mac (Virden) kindergarteners about bats on 10-26-10.

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