Raising awareness of bats and the necessity for their protection in Cyprus, 2008-2009

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The project was conducted by ARC (Animal Responsibility Cyprus) KIVOTOS between December 2008 and December 2009, funded by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (Direction des Eaux et Forêts, Service de la Conservation de la Nature).

Our NGO ARC, known as KIVOTOS in Greek, was established in 1994. We started to focus on bats in 2007 when we learned that Cyprus was the only EU member state to host fruitbats – Rousettus aegyptiacus.

The animals’ roosts were being targeted by hunters; unfortunately, they still are. We lobbied the Competent Authority and co-organised a two-day workshop, and simultaneously concentrated on raising public awareness of these beautiful, harmless and useful animals. We made presentations at schools and used the media to regularly disseminate knowledge. We were very happy when we succeeded in being among the first to be awarded a EUROBATS Project grant.

The grant enabled us to print attractive items to give to children at our school presentations: ‘Friend of Bats’ stickers and bookmarks that we designed. A large soft-toy version of a fruitbat that children love to be photographed with. Also leaflets and colour posters in Greek, Turkish and English. The grant also helped with transport expenses to travel to schools and seminars all over Cyprus at a time when oil prices went through the roof. We also amassed a collection of children’s books on bats, as well as educational materials. Our motto was ‘Putting the Bats of Cyprus on the Map’, and the grant helped us achieve this.

We acted as a contact point for people who found injured bats in their swimming pools and located a volunteer who would rehabilitate them.

We were also able to represent Cyprus at a conference in Villefranche-sur-Mer, focussing on students from Mediterranean countries. We were the only one to focus on bats, and we networked with representatives from neighbouring countries (Jordan, Israel, Syria) that do have Rousettus. Two of these countries subsequently sent delegates for the first time to the EUROBATS MoP in Cyprus.

We use our Power Point presentation to convert children into ‘Friends of Bats’. When they receive their sticker, they know about the silly myths, and they know the facts. They undertake to explain the good points about bats whenever they hear silly stories about bats flying into your hair, and so on. They know about the numbers of mosquitoes bats can eat, and they learn about the wonders of echolocation.

The EUROBATS project grant also strengthened our ‘bat status’ in Cyprus, resulting in sponsorship that allowed us to print our fruitbat story in three languages and distribute it free of charge. Although the grant period is over, we are continuing our efforts and have already presented to hundreds of children and their teachers during the first two months of 2010. Thank you EUROBATS. Believe us – people are really enthusiastic about bats once they receive exciting input.