Nature: The Bat Man of Mexico

Air date: 06/30/2021

Nature: The Bat Man of Mexico

Premieres Wednesday, June 30 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/nature and the PBS Video app

Synopsis:
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. Narrated by David Attenborough.

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.

Short TV Listing: Meet Mexico’s very own ‘Bat Man,’ an ecologist dedicating his life to saving bats.

Long TV Listing: An ecologist tracks the lesser long-nosed bat’s epic migration across Mexico, braving hurricanes, snakes and seas of cockroaches, in order to save the species and the tequila plants they pollinate.

Series Overview:
Nature is a voice for the natural world, bringing the wonders of wildlife and stories of conservation to millions of American viewers. The series has won more than 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 19 Emmys and three Peabody Awards. The series is available for streaming simultaneously on all station-branded PBS platforms, including pbs.org and the PBS Video app, which is available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast. PBS station members can view episodes via Passport (contact your local PBS station for details). To further explore the natural world, the Nature website offers behind-the-scenes videos, filmmaker interviews, blog posts, educational resources, digital-only series and more. Nature is a production of The WNET Group for PBS.

Production Credits:
Nature: The Bat Man of Mexico is 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.

Underwriters:
Support for Nature: The Bat Man of Mexico is provided by the Arnhold Foundation, The Fairweather Foundation, Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Kathy Chiao and Ken Hao, Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, Charles Rosenblum, Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, Sandra Atlas Bass, Colin S. Edwards, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by PBS.

Websites:
pbs.org/nature; facebook.com/PBSNature; twitter.com/PBSNature; instagram.com/pbsnature; youtube.com/naturepbs, tiktok.com/@pbsnature, #NaturePBS

About The WNET Group
The WNET Group creates inspiring media content and meaningful experiences for diverse audiences nationwide. It is the nonprofit parent company of New York’s THIRTEEN – America’s flagship PBS station – WLIW21, THIRTEEN PBSKids, WLIW World and Create; Long Island’s only NPR station WLIW-FM; and ALL ARTS, the arts and culture media provider. The WNET Group also operates NJ PBS, New Jersey’s statewide public television network, and newsroom NJ Spotlight News. Through these channels and streaming platforms, The WNET Group brings arts, culture, education, news, documentary, entertainment and DIY programming to more than five million viewers each month. The WNET Group’s award-winning productions include signature PBS series Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend and Amanpour and Company and trusted local news programs MetroFocus and NJ Spotlight News with Briana Vannozzi. Inspiring curiosity and nurturing dreams, The WNET Group’s award-winning Kids’ Media and Education team produces the PBS KIDS series Cyberchase, interactive Mission US history games, and resources for families, teachers and caregivers. A leading public media producer for nearly 60 years, The WNET Group presents and distributes content that fosters lifelong learning, including multi-platform initiatives addressing poverty, jobs, economic opportunity, social justice, understanding and the environment. Through Passport, station members can stream new and archival programming anytime, anywhere. Community-supported, The WNET Group represents the best in public media. Join us.

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Photos
For editorial use in North America only in conjunction with the direct publicity or promotion of NATURE, no other rights are granted. All rights reserved. Downloading this image constitutes agreement to these terms.

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

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

A Vampire bat being fed blood in a bathroom for Rodrigo Medellin’s research as a young graduate. © Amy Cooper

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

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

A Lesser long-nosed bat. Credit: © Amy Cooper

A Lesser long-nosed bat maternity colony in a cave in the Pinacate Desert of Northwest Mexico. This is where the Lesser long-nosed bats give birth and nurse their young. Credit: © George Woodcock

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

Lesser long-nosed bat flying. Credit: © Amy Cooper