Lilieci.ro took flight 6 months ago! The Romanian bat portal became a reality half a year ago, on December 6th, 2016, at 18.00. We thought that it would be nice to remember some of the key moments and to review our joint achievements.

Darkness and the scent of possibility

When bat researchers enter for the first time a cave or a building, where they did not set foot before, it is not known whether they will discover new bat colonies, or they will leave only with 3-4 bats noted into the log. Darkness can be overwhelming. But every turn, every gallery or room, every crack emanates the pleasant scent of possibility. The possibility of discovering a new colony for science. The possibility of observing a rare species.

When the idea of the online bat portal was born, we did not know whether we would succeed in realizing what we set out to do or not. We just knew that there was no adequate platform in Romania containing both simple concepts about bat protection, accessible to the public, and more complex terms and publications, aimed at experts of this field. We only knew that in the last few years communication within the Romanian bat research community was insufficient, at best. We only knew that the Romanian bat protection, although having positive results in recent years, is still a fairly long way from becoming truly durable and sustainable.

And the scent of the possibility of creating something new and useful was too big to be ignored.

The road to success is rarely walked alone

The creation of the Lilieci.ro portal was one of the objectives of the project “Uniting the efforts of Romanian bat conservation”, implemented by Szilárd Bücs during 2015-2017, as a participant in the third generation of the Klaus Toepfer Fellowship Program. The project aimed to strengthen efforts of Romanian  bat protection, on the one hand by reactivating the communication within the local bat research community, and on the other hand, by creating the vital link between the specialist and the public, between scientific results and raising awareness.

Obviously, the successful implementation of the project, including the creation of the Lilieci.ro portal, required much more than the initial idea. The knowledge gained on the Island of Vilm, at the International Academy for Nature Conservation, the ideas and support of colleagues from the KTF 3 and world class trainers were essential to achieving the project’s objectives. The Romanian bat research community and the project’s national and international mentors completed the range of ideas and chanelled the final results. Family and friends had to develop nerves of steel, when discussions repeatedly focused on the portal’s structure, communication channels, or the possible date of the national bat research conference. And because the project was implemented on a voluntary basis and without financial support from the KTF or the parent organization, the donations and sponsorships received in this period were decisive in achieving the project’s objectives.

All would have stayed in the realm of an idea without a determined team. Right from the beginning, our programmer drew our attention to the difference between a simple web page and a portal. But facing its complex structure, and the connections between the different elements, Ferenc remained ever interested and challenged by the task of creating the portal. The translation of texts in three languages, grammaring, and in general, the improvement of portal’s content are constant activities, carried out voluntarily by Olimpia, Imola and Katya, but also by other colleagues who chose to remain anonymous. Scientific aspects are verified by Levente and Csaba, who have over 30 years of a cumulative experience in Romanian bat research. Social media presence requires attention to be “in the moment”, but also up to date knowledge on how to catch some important waves. Ana manages to catch quite a lot of waves and keeps us afloat in the world of Facebook and Instagram. Although without concrete knowledge in the field, Szilárd designs the informative materials of Lilieci.ro, is responsible for the “look” of the portal, and also the coordination of all activities.

During the survey of bats in caves or buildings, we always feel a little bit safer, a little bit more daring when we are not alone. In case of Lilieci.ro it is exactly the same. We were more confident in ourselves, we dared to do more together.

The particularities of the bat portal

From the moment of activation, and even now, the portal’s team is working to achieve our purpose, to spread real information about bats and the benefits of their presence, but also to induce a positive change in the public attitude concerning bats. In our vision, there is a world where we co-exist with bats, a world where all bat colonies, regardless of size, are protected. And, ultimately, but most importantly, a world where we respect Nature and fellow human beings, and realize our permanent connection.

The Romanian bat research community includes both Romanian and Hungarian colleagues, and the history of chiropterology in the area of Romania is remarkably diverse. So we decided that the Lilieci.ro portal must be published in three languages. Obviously in Romanian and Hungarian, but also in English, due to the importance of Romanian bat fauna at continental level.

The structure of the portal is arranged in such a way that the public easily finds the necessary information. The portal’s sitemap helps to get a better view. There are general parts about bats and their evolution, about legends, about Romanian bat species. The playground is designed for children, containing simple information, games, origami, stories, and simple methods of bat protection. BEX, our evolving dictionary on bats, bat research and protection, contains the most common terms used in this domain.

Through the Lilieci.ro portal and the “Post in the Colony!” button, the Romanian public has the chance, for the first time, to share their own ideas, stories or experiences about bats. These contributions are posted on the portal’s blog, entitled, yepp, “The Colony“. A colony for all of us.

Members of the public who want to contribute to the goal of the portal, namely to disseminate real information about bats, can become Emissaries of bats. Currently, most emissaries are, obviously, from Romania, but we have colleagues in the United States, Latvia, Moldova, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Germany. Their work is essential, for the message to reach a large enough audience, and to push towards a positive change in the attitude of the public concerning bats.

Our joint achievements – and what comes after

During these six months of existence we have had thousands of visitors and readers. We published news about the initiatives from Bucharest, Piatra Neamț and Cluj, but also about a project financed by EUROBATS. Even in the development phase of the portal, before activation, we did our part in helping to organize the 2nd National Bat Research Conference in Romania, reviving this event after a 10-year interruption.

We have published detailed articles on the evolution and protection of bats, about the current legislation, about responsible tourism, and about those unfounded myths and legends that still haunt people’s imagination. We’ve provided you with a wide variety of multimedia materials, including photo galleries, wallpapers, a dictionary about bats, as well as videos and interviews. We collaborated with Kitty Harvill and the ABUN Group, the artists allowing us to use their bat themed artwork for future awareness raising activities.

A series of more detailed, informative and scientific publications on the durable protection of bats, made available to the portal by Romanian institutions and professional organizations, can be downloaded from the specific section. We also maintain the Facebook and Instagram equivalents of the portal, publishing bat news also from other countries, or some special pictures.

In March 2017, together with you and the community of bat researchers from the country, we elected together for the first time the “Bat of the Year” in Romania, the title being given to the brown long-eared bat, having the most obvious ears of the fauna in Romania. We currently have a poster that can be printed by anyone, who wants a huge eared bat on their own wall. Also in March 2017, we were present at the meeting of EUROBATS member states (in Belgrade, Serbia) and presented both the positive results of Romanian bat protection, and the challenges that still await us for a truly durable protection.

During this first period we were interviewed by Sebastian-Radu.ro, Radio Cluj, Radio Târgu Mureş and the Romanian Cultural Radio. We have answered questions about bats, bat protection, the „Bat of the year” contest, as well as about concrete projects. The portal was accessed 4.807 times, from 81 countries, most visits coming from:

  • Romania: 3.062 visits
  • United States: 391 visits
  • United Kingdom: 167 visits
  • Hungary: 148 visits
  • Germany: 144 visits
  • France: 121 visits
  • Moldova: 83 visits

The most active month was March 2017, the period of the “Bat of the Year” competition, with over 1,600 visits during the month.

In May 2017 we have contributed with a PowerPoint presentation about bats to the Romanian Ornithological Society’s project “Nature friendly gardens and schools“, through which this presentation will reach teachers from 260 schools and 39 counties in Romania. Thanks, SOR, for the opportunity to raise the knowledge of children and students in these schools.

The portal’s team is complete only with the more than 40 bat emissaries, who (similarly to the portal’s team) are sharing real information about bats on a voluntary basis, thus contributing to raising public awareness. Thanks for your work!

But all these results would have been impossible without our sponsors. Whether financially, with equipment or with high-quality pictures and illustrations, the Lilieci.ro portal has received support from many directions. This way, we once again thank our sponsors, and we hope the outcome is meeting their expectations.

Of course, there is still work left to be done. Like for example the database of romanian bat-themed projects, or the scientific article database. We have to add exact details about the protection of bat roosts and feeding habitats, as well as methods of bat monitoring. The detailed descriptions of Romanian bat species are currently available only in Romanian, translation into the other two languages of the portal will soon follow.

The importance of involvement

Bats are extremely beneficial to humanity. Tropical bats help us to obtain such products as bananas or mango, while species from temperate areas, including Europe and Romania, help us to get rid of pest insect.  It is estimated that one third of the food consumed by humans is obtained with the help of pollen carriers: bees, birds …and bats. Hence, bats are fully involved in maintaining balance in Earth’s ecosystems.

A bats researcher who annually visits the same colony, checking the number of bats, always hopes for an increase or at least for stability. Sometimes we find a smaller number of bats than we are used to. The colony moved, collapsed, or just shrunk in size. On rare occasions we also are part of something really extraordinary. In any case, we always think about doing something to better protect the colony. Either through concrete conservation measures (cave closings, building renovation, etc.), through raising public awareness, or through the development of methodological guides for future projects. We’re involved. We’re interested.

Lilieci.ro is convinced that the best results are obtained together. With researchers, the public, authorities, local communities, and protected area administrators. We do not have to be bat experts to disseminate real information about bats, to follow simple conservation rules, or to aid bat protection in a general way.

If you believe that the work of the Lilieci.ro portal is important, you can support our work by joining our sponsors. Incoming donations will be used exclusively to achieve the goals of the portal.

We also give you some reasons to support our work:

# 1. I really like BATS: I know that legends are not true, and I know that bats a very beneficial to us. I also know that bat protection must be enhanced;

#2. I value NATURE: Bats help to keep the balance of ecosystems, so by donating to bat protection, I also support the protection of Nature!

#3. I promote INFORMATION: I contribute to the evolution of the most diverse and complex online resource about the bats of Romania;

#4. I support MULTICULTURALISM: I help a multi-ethnic team that creates the Lilieci.ro portal on a voluntary basis in three languages;

#5. ..and the DECISIVE reason: So we can reward your donation with something cute about bats (stickers, brochure, poster, etc.)! *

Looking forward to long years in the service of bats and bat protection, we thank you!

The Lilieci.ro team, 2017

www.lilieci.ro/en/

* To reward your donation, we need a postal address sent to contact@lilieci.ro. The address will not be made public, we will only use it to send you a sign of gratitude. Thank you!

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