Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Arts & Culture

NATURE: The Bat Man Of Mexico

Ecologist Rodrigo Medellin with a Lesser long-nosed bat.
Credit: © Amy Cooper
Ecologist Rodrigo Medellin with a Lesser long-nosed bat.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021 at 8 p.m. & Sunday, July 4 at 3 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, July 1 at 7 p.m. on KPBS 2 / On Demand

Since ecologist Rodrigo Medellin first kept bats in his bathroom as a child, he has dedicated his life to saving them. Now Mexico’s most famous export, tequila, is at stake. Medellin’s beloved lesser long-nosed bat is crucial to the liquor – it pollinates the plants the drink is made from.

To save these bats from extinction, Medellin must track the bats’ epic migration across Mexico, braving hurricanes, snakes and seas of cockroaches. Sprinkling harmless UV dust on bats and following their glowing guano across the desert, Medellin devises innovative methods to conserve Mexico’s bat population.

NATURE “The Bat Man Of Mexico” is narrated by David Attenborough.

A selection of bats from across Mexico that ecologist Rodrigo Medellin encountered during the making of "The Bat Man of Mexico."
Credit: © Amy Cooper
A selection of bats from across Mexico that ecologist Rodrigo Medellin encountered during the making of "The Bat Man of Mexico."

Buzzworthy Moments:

  • More than three million bats live in the caves of Calakmul. To avoid being eaten, they form a living tornado when they fly. In this whirling mass, it’s almost impossible for their predators to choose a target.
  • To track the migration patterns and distances of the lesser long-nosed bats, Medellin coats the bats he catches in harmless UV dust, which they lick off and digest. The glowing dust passes through their system, and by tracking the glowing bat droppings, he can prove how far they’ve flown. This is a method used when tracker technology is unavailable.
  • Medellin sets up remote cameras in a bat “nursery.” Bats synchronize their births so that a colony’s newborns all arrive over the course of 2-3 weeks. The camera catches a mother giving birth – the first time this behavior has been filmed.

Noteworthy Facts:

  • There are more than 1,200 species of bats in the world.
  • Bats are the main pollinators of agave plants. Tequila is obtained through the distillation of juices from agaves. More than a quarter billion liters of tequila were exported from Mexico in 2020.
  • For centuries, bats were hated in Mexico because of their association with evil. People would hunt them down and kill them, burning them in their caves. In the early nineties, their populations crashed, with the lesser long-nosed bats facing extinction.
Agave jimadores are the farm workers that harvest the tequila plant. Lesser long-nosed bats have pollinated the tequila agave for centuries.
Credit: © George Woodcock
Agave jimadores are the farm workers that harvest the tequila plant. Lesser long-nosed bats have pollinated the tequila agave for centuries.

Watch On Your Schedule:

NATURE is available for streaming simultaneously on all station-branded PBS platforms, including pbs.org/nature and the PBS Video App, which is available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast.

Episodes will be available for streaming on demand for a limited time after broadcast. Extend your viewing window with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members at $60 or more yearly, using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.

Join The Conversation:

NATURE is on Facebook, and you can follow @PBSNature on Twitter. #NaturePBS

Credits:

A Windfall Films West production for BBC and Animal Planet. David Attenborough is narrator and Tom Mustill is director (NATURE "The Whale Detective," 2020). For NATURE, Fred Kaufman is executive producer. Bill Murphy is series producer and Janet Hess is series editor.