Our team begins to gather in the Japanese garden of the Botanical Garden in Cluj-Napoca. We have with us: informative materials about bats, stickers, small surprise sweet snacks for kids, all the necessary video and audio equipment. Some of us are arranging the pictures for the photo exhibition; others are preparing the activities with children and the rest of us deal with some last event aspects.
Although September, it is a perfect day of late Summer. We are lucky and there are no clouds whatsoever in sight. There are already many visitors in the Botanical Garden who are entering in the Japanese garden and slightly hesitating ask “What’s going on here?”. “Soon, at 2:00 p.m. sharp, an event dedicated to bats will start!” we say overjoyed. Everything is ready for receiving the curious ones, those who want to know more about these small, hairy, but so essential creatures in ecosystems around the globe.
More and more visitors are directed – by the nice lady at the entrance of the Botanical Garden – to the bat themed photo exhibition. “Wow, so many bats in this picture! How many are they? Where was the photo made?”. And so it starts. We talk about bats with everyone. We will not stop until late in the night… Several children are already helping a cartoon bat to find its way to its evening snack through a twistedly drawn labyrinth. Others look amazed, as in Daniela’s hands, a lovely origami bat emerges out of a colored paper. Look – he also has eyes! The boldest children (and adults) choose to receive a small temporary tattoo with the words “Smile! We are in Cluj!”.
The place where we will have our first presentation with the help of a projector is already set. A little bit further from the Japanese garden gazebo we have improvised a screen, tested the projector, and … ups! There is too much light! You can’t see a thing on the screen. We have hoped the weather would be ok, that we would have sun, but now the sun is giving us headaches. Fast team meeting: What are we going to do? But we quickly find a solution: just change the place of the presentations. The wall of the gazebo becomes our new screen. Much better now!
There are more and more visitors coming. We are ready to start the first presentation. Daniela Borda from the Emil Racoviță Institute of Speleology makes a fascinating introduction for the kids into the world of bats. Even adults are amazed by how many mosquitos (over 2,000!) a bat can eat in just one night. And by the fact that bats help us to obtain chocolate (by pollination like honey bees with their sweet nectar thirst) and much more. The children are going “wow”. Adults are astonished.
The next presentation held in Hungarian by Szilárd-Lehel Bücs (Natura Transilvaniei Association, Lilieci.ro portal), is about the most common myths about bats. No, bats don’t get in our hair intentionally, they do not suck our blood and definitely they are not blind! Szilárd also talks about more serious things such as: the colonies of thousands of specimens of bats in our country and the very rich variety – 32 species – of bats in Romania.
We don’t even notice when so many people gather everywhere: at the bat presentations, at the photo exhibition, at the flyers and books about bats and at the children’s activities. We are very happy about the large audience, however, we don’t realize what awaits us: most participants have not left home yet and they will arrive later, because – of course – it’s International Bat NIGHT.
We collect all the headphones and explanatory panels for the audio-visual route we planned and start creating the educational trail. We place them exactly as in the map, the map that some participants already have and we press play: now you can hear the sounds of bats of different species and in different contexts.
Let the fun start! We see children running with their parents after them to find all the points on the audio-visual educational trail, using the simple map they received. One by one or in zigzag, they start to discover different stations:
Precise, as a whistle – Horseshoe Bats
The ultrasound of the inevitable
Targeted, like a whisper – Long-Eared Bats
The Bats Bazaar or who’s louder
The Howler: The Noctule Bat
We love the enthusiasm and the amazement of everyone present: “That’s how a bat sounds when looking for insects to eat!?” “Bats talk so much to each other?” “But we thought bats are blind…” “I did not know that! Bats are awesome! “. Meanwhile, we also receive a visit from TVR Cluj television. They want to make a story about the event. Of course, Szilárd is the one put in front of the camera. After the interview, several frames are filmed with the reporter telling about the importance of bats in general and of those in Romania.
The agitation in the Japanese Garden increases with the number of visitors. It’s getting darker but the adventure is just starting. It’s more fun to look for the audio – visual “check points” in semi-darkness. Armed with their lights on the phone or small flashlights, one after another, the headphones are found, put on the ears and… quiet … now bats are doing the talking!
On the way out of the Botanical Garden, some participants are lucky enough to catch in the dark a glimpse of a flying bat. “Are there bats in this Garden?” they also ask us. “Of course! They are everywhere! You just have to pay enough attention and look for them in the right places. What’s more, if it’s quiet, sometimes you can even hear some of the sounds they make.”
At “Nature’s Screen” there is a stunning video projection with hundreds of bats in a … let’s call it: a night dance. Don’t worry, the short movie shooting was done exclusively with infrared light that, being ignored by bats, reduces disturbance to zero. Thank you, Barry, for the filming!
We lost count of the people we talk to, the little ones we play with or tell fun bat facts to, those who still are visiting the photo exhibition, those who have their lights on and listen to the bats. Only the lady at the entrance of the Botanical Garden still counts everyone: over 800!
We cannot believe it. We are surrounded by silence. And we were just getting used to the rhythm! There are just a few visitors left. We’re not sorry that it’s over. We’re already excited about the 2018 edition of the International Bat Night in Cluj-Napoca.
We start to pack everything, to clean the place up. We have to leave the place as we found it: all in order. We make a quick team count. Yes, the full team managed to come through untill to very end. Thank you all, we look forward to the 2018 event!
The International Bat Night Cluj-Napoca would not have been possible without the organizers:
and our very dedicated volunteers: Orsolya, Kinga and Mihai.
The International Bat Night Cluj-Napoca is part of a series of events organized in dozens of countries worldwide, under the aegis of UNEP/EUROBATS, to raise awareness and sensitize the public about bats and bat protection.