Celebrating biodiversity at Kettunen Center

TUSTIN - When Kettunen Center celebrates its 50th Anniversary this coming weekend, it promises to be a fun time for young and old alike with all sorts of activities going on including the pre-celebration 5K Trail Run/Walk which gets underway Saturday at 8:30 a.m.

Now for those who want a bit of inspiration to really kick it in gear and maybe even win the race, perhaps they should have been at Kettunen a short time back when they had a super good program with a technical sounding name. Biodiversity.

It was a bit batty. In fact, it was a lot batty.

Dale Smart of Cranbrook Institute of Science in Oakland County was on hand to share not only his knowledge of some very interesting creatures, but made the whole event up close and personal. Many people were real up close and personal with bats.

Later, the group went for a walk and searched for the flitting critters, which could prove a bit of inspiration to runners and walkers alike, just knowing they really are out there. A staff member said she had doubted at an earlier presentation that they could be located in the vicinity of the center very easily. He proved her wrong.

Smart told the group that the largest bat is found in Malaysia and is two feet tall with a six-foot wing span. He explained that it is so big it cannot stand up and walk because all of a bat’s muscles are found in their chest and needed for flight.

Before he brought out the bats he toted with him from Cranbrook, noises could be heard near the crowd. He sloughed it off as “That’s just the big guy walking around on the ceiling.”

A bit later, “the big guy” was taken out and entertaining most, scaring a few. He explained the importance of such critters, along with how important keeping a balance in the ecosystem really is, adding that taking away one part can have a tremendous effect on another.

Armed with a slide presentation, Smart offered a program that showed how those effects can be altered accidentally or intentionally. For instance, killing off one type of animal can mean the over-population of another species which can than destroy the vegetation needed for others to live. Unless it is balanced, there is often extinction unless action is taken to put things back in balance.

For those attending, it was an opportunity to learn as well as see not only bats, but other types as well. He explained that even a vampire bat is important and “could save your life some day.” He explained they provide exactly what is needed to create “a stroke-busting medicine, a clot-buster. Imagine, a vampire bat teaming up to save humans with what it has in its saliva.”

He also explained that Cranbrook specializes in rescuing animals from zoos, or those that have been abused, even exotic ones that someone can no longer care for. A “bearded dragon” was an example. Missing a tail and a leg, it was rescued and now accompanying him to Kettunen. “His owners are in jail,” he said, as he placed it on the floor and as children surrounded “it,” the bearded dragon walked about watching them watch him. Or her?

He told the group that there is a disease in 16 states that has already killed up to 5 million bats. He noted that it is not in Michigan, yet, but it may show up. It kills the bats as they are sleeping in caves and spreads rapidly. The white nose fungus passes bat to bat. He also noted that it is against the law to have a bat as a pet. He has a permit.

Some bats breathe 200 times a minute, has a heart rate of 800 beats per minute, and they can eat a thousand insects an hour, 6,000 a night.

Smart also had with him Mr. Green, a bat with arthritis and can no longer fly. Mr. Green is micro chipped, has a 31-inch wing span, knows how to roll over and play dead, and gets back in his cage and shuts the door.