Cranbrook gets batty with new events, movie auction

By: Mike Koury, Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 14, 2016

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BLOOMFIELD HILLS — There’s a new movie coming out next month called “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

Much of the highly anticipated superhero flick was filmed right here in metro Detroit. To commemorate that and draw attention to the real nighttime crusaders, Cranbrook Institute of Science is turning March into Bat Superhero Month with new opportunities to learn about bats and their contributions to the environment.

Through June of this year, Cranbrook has dedicated an exhibition to the mysterious and slightly misunderstood creatures called “Bats: Superheroes of the Night.” Guests can explore how bats benefit the ecosystem and why they’re in danger of vanishing from the skies. Live animals and interactive components take visitors through a fun and informative adventure to explain why bats need help, and soon.

The institute has added new components to the exhibit, including the Malayan flying fox, the largest species of bat in the world, weighing around 2 pounds and boasting a wingspan of 5 or 6 feet. Don’t worry, they don’t regularly call Michigan home.

There’s also a new robotic bat and a human-sized bat skeleton that were added to the collection recently.

“Bats are one of the most important backyard animals, but they are in trouble. This exhibit does a great job of explaining a real-world problem in a way that allows kids and adults to understand it, show them how they can help, and inspire them to want to do something to save the bats,” said Rob Mies, executive director of the Organization for Bat Conservation, based at Cranbrook Institute, and the curator of the exhibition.

Once guests have a chance to see just how impressive the animals are, they’ll get the chance to help with a special auction to benefit the nonprofit Organization for Bat Conservation.

According to the conservation, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” director Zack Snyder reached out during filming to ask how he could benefit the real bat stars through the organization’s Save the Bats campaign.

Snyder helped by handing his movie over to the bats — well, the set that is. Right now, cinema fans and environmentalists alike can head to eBay to bid on one of more than 100 bat houses specially built out of the set used to film the movie. They’re decorated and designed to give bats safe and happy homes, while the funds raised from the houses will be used to boost up the campaign.

And that’s important, because part of what the Save the Bats campaign does is spread awareness about why bats are currently endangered, which can be largely attributed to a specific illness sweeping the bat population.

Eastern Michigan University biology professor Dr. Allen Kurta said the disease, white-nose syndrome, comes from a fungus that attacks the bare skin, wings, forearms, legs, snouts and ears of bats while they are hibernating.

“It is what we call a cold fungus,” he said. “It doesn’t grow above 68 degrees Fahrenheit. So people don’t have to worry about it; dogs and cats and cows and etc. It’s not going to attack our skin because it simply does not grow at such a warm temperature. But when bats hibernate and their body temperature, their surface temperature, is down around 40 or 45 degrees Fahrenheit … that’s perfectly fine as far as that fungus is concerned.”

The first case of white-nose syndrome in Michigan was found in winter 2013-14, according to Kurta, causing a “huge mortality” of bats over the past couple of years, especially in the Upper Peninsula, where a great deal go to hibernate.

Bat houses and bat-friendly backyard habitats are a few ways that families can do their part to fight bat extinction. From 1 to 4 p.m. March 20, the institute will host Superhero Sunday and give visitors the chance to celebrate and learn about the winged wonders.

Guests can dress up as their favorite superhero and see comics come alive inside and outside the museum. Fans can take selfies with Batman or Darth Vader, create “detonating” seed bombs and bat crafts, and test superhero knowledge with the Comic Quiz.

Then visitors can head outside for a walking adventure through the campus to see where real bats live on the Cranbrook grounds.

For more information on bat festivities at Cranbrook throughout March, including the ongoing exhibition, the bat house auction and Superhero Sunday, visit science.cranbrook.edu.

Cranbrook Institute of Science is located at 39211 Woodward Ave. in Bloomfield Hills.

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