Thursday, June 13, 2024

2 million expected to swoop to Mexico City for bat-themed festival

The Chapultepec Park Festival returns for a third consecutive year this week, and the featured theme will be chiroptera. What’s that, you ask? Chiroptera is the taxonomic classification of the only mammal capable of true flight: the bat. 

Mexico City Mayor Martí Batres said he expects upward of 2 million visitors to the festival during its four-day run from March 28 to 31. Chapultepec Park, the 686-hectare woodland area just west of Mexico City’s historic center, will play host to the bat-filled event.

Bat expert Rodrigo Medellin with mic in hand, in front of digital display of a bat
One of the highlights of the festival will be a public talk by Mexico’s internationally known ecologist and bat expert Rodrigo Medellín, who’s been featured in National Geographic and on PBS’ Nature series. (Victoria Valtierra Ruvalcaba/Cuartoscuro)

Playing a key role in promoting this year’s festival is the Bat Man of Mexico, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) ecologist and bat champion Dr. Rodrigo Medellín.

Medellín, who has been featured in publications like National Geographic and was the subject of a 2021 episode on the PBS series Nature, gained notoriety for his work to preserve the endangered lesser long-nosed bat, also known as the “tequila bat” for its crucial role in pollinating the agave plant, the source of the iconic Mexican liquor.

“Bats are the most important pest control in the world, and Mexico is the country with the fifth-most [number of] bat species in the world,” Medellín said at the March 12 press conference where the festival was announced.

There are 140 million bats in Mexico, Medellín said, and “1 million bats can consume 10 tons of insects each night while dispersing three to five seeds per square meter.” 

“Today we have the large forests we have because of bats, which regenerate them,” Medellín said, urging the public to come to the festival and “discover how marvelous bats are.” 

Of the world’s 1,400 species of bats, 20 can be found in Mexico City.

Mayor Batres told reporters that there will be more than 100 fixed locales across the first and second sections of the park, as well as cultural, educational, artistic and recreational activities, 200 activities in all. The festival will also feature seven giant papier-mache bats — accompanied by workshops and booths — created by artisans from the city’s Iztapalapa borough. 

The festival program includes films, concerts, dance and theater performances, plus seminars and conferences by bat experts. On May 28, Dr. Medellín will deliver a talk entitled “Why Take Care of Bats? Our Winged Allies.” 

Three large-format photo exhibits installed for the festival will remain open to the public through June.

The organizers claim this year’s Chapultepec Park Festival will be the biggest-ever “bat-themed festival” in the world. There is no entry fee for the festival activities. Tickets for the Museum of Natural History (MHN) — located in the park’s second section — cost 36 pesos.

Last year’s edition of the festival, christened the “Animalistic Festival,” boasted 120 activity centers and seven giant animal displays — including one on the panda, on the crocodile and on the eagle — to spotlight the 100th anniversary of the Chapultepec Zoo

With reports from El Universal and La Jornada Maya

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