OOZ proposes two distinct interfaces to the bats, to facilitate interaction in their two distinct periods of activity. At night the bats rely on echolocation; however during the day while roosting they use often quite audible communication and are highly social mammals. They can and will live in and manage high density situations (not unlike human mammals) and have many verbal and nonverbal communication strategies. It is fair to say that bats are the only other mammals that can form and sustain serious megametropolis (the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas has a population of 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats, the largest urban bat population in North America, which annually draws an estimated 100,000 tourists and 8 million dollars in municipal revenue). Bats also share our tremendous dexterity, which seems to have an interesting relationship to language and cognitive ability. In fact, Bats join a peculiar grouping Parrots, Elephants, and Homo Sapiens in a syndrome that is defined by highly sociality, tremendous dexterity, small number of offspring that require high investment and relative longevity. We have a lot to discuss with bats.
Bat phobias can be exercised through the fear of bat borne rabies, and the possibility of bat to human transmission. There are no well-documented cases of bat to human rabies transmissions, unlike the well tolerated presence and rabies transfecting behavior of dog borne rabies. Nor are any of the species likely to inhabit the High Line (and who probably already do) prone to or even able to bite humans or other mammals.
For a discussion of these risks, and others please see: Greenhall, Arthur, M. 1982. House bat management. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Resource Publication 143. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center by clicking here
By contrast, the risk of disease transmission is reduced by the careful management and improved lifestyle that we can provide through the OOZ designs. The provision of bat habitable contexts means that people do not come across bats unexpectedly, reducing the chance of surprise and rash actions. And augmenting the local resources to support the population will reduce a range of environmental stressors on the bats and creating a healthier population. Thereby we can actually reduce any risk of disease harboring, transmission or transmutation.
In addition, the value of urban bats far outweighs any risk. The services they provide include, but are not limited to:the most effective form of insect control, reducing risk of insect to human disease transmission; as highly sociable mammals their complex social coordination and governance structures are not well understood but of tremendous interest; (the only mammals that can sustain in populations similar in size to humans) as keystone species in ecological networks; for the fertilization value of bat guano. Known to be the most sought after fertilizer in the world?the saffron of fertilizers?a sustained market for bat guano has developed around several major urban bat populations; due to their warm blooded efficiency and extensive territory coverage bats are the most effective cross pollinators on the planet?when compared with insect pollination. This make them critical to the hybrid vigor and genetic diversity of thousands of plant species and countless specific ecological niches. Bats are the exemplar species for animal viewing driven tourism. In the US, see Texas, and Austin, TX in particular, in the Netherlands throughout the polderlands, in Australia, see the cliffs of the Brisbane river.