At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you can skip the bat display. There is a sign that directs you past the enclosure of Malayan flying foxes (Pteropus vampyrus) should you, for some incomprehensible reason, wish to not see them. These large fruit bats are impressive and utterly lovely; I could not wait to catch a glimpse.
The woman in front of me split from her husband and toddler and pushed a stroller past the exhibit with an audible intention of avoiding the bats. She was afraid.
I’m at a loss.
She was afraid of this:
Let’s turn them 180 degrees:
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Those critters are adorable.
While I’m in the display, I cringe to hear parents point them out to their offspring and refer to them “vampires” or “Dracula”. Thanks, pop culture! We learn nonsense via fiction and go through life not bothering to correct it.
These bats are undoubtedly huge with a great black wing span yet they eat fruit, not blood. They don’t attack people. They are remarkably adapted to their niche in the world and deserve a place in it without ignorance that fuels cruelty and extermination.
The most important purpose of zoos and animal parks is to bring people up close to learn about animals they don’t regularly see or that are killed for the wrong reasons. Education is key to protecting animals that most humans don’t realize need to be respected and allowed a space to exist.
I was really irked that this woman would bring her family to an animal park and choose to remain ignorant, to indulge a misguided fear. I do understand that not everyone feels comfortable to be up close to spiders, insects, snakes or rats. Even one of the guides at the park says he rushes past the hissing cockroach display because he doesn’t like them. I’m not a fan of roaches and hate scorpions but I make myself examine them because they are darned interesting.
On the “Bug’s Life” attraction, people are sprayed with bug spray, giant spiders descend from the ceiling, and you feel surprise movement under the seats. It’s GREAT. It’s more of a freak out than these lovely real animals who are just going about their lives as nature made them. I give credit to Disney corporation for their support of conservation efforts and for making an great effort to reach kids and their families with a kingdom that includes animals, not just humans. Yes, I get a bit hung-up about their promotion of fiction over facts, too, but I get they are thinking about appealing to their young audience.
I am saddened by those who are unwilling to at least attempt to learn about animals so different from us, to cling so tightly to wrongheaded ideas that they never are open to the bigger view. To be so isolated to think that the world is only for PEOPLE means you miss out on the tremendous variety, beauty and creativity of life on earth.
To spite that closed-minded woman, and because I adore bats of all kinds, I bought a Batworld.org tee today in their fundraiser to support bat rescue. Why don’t you, too. These little guys and girl will be grateful.