Bats & Black Cats

Somehow Halloween went from celebrating so much going on in this time of year to... logos. Certain images just signify Halloween now... pumpkins, witches, bats, spiders & black cats. Not that any of these are in particular scary (Ok we have some big hairy Caribbean spiders that would make your skin crawl, but I digress), but some have a very long tradition and association with Halloween and some just... do not.
Here in Puerto Rico we take our witches (brujas) extremely seriously, being that most of the island believes strongly in Afro-Cuban Santeria (Orisha), and the existance of Brujeria (witchcraft). Although the Caribbean is not known as some of the countries still killing wtiches in 2013 (7 Countries That Still Kill Witches) still the Caribbean bat and our homeless street cats that happened to be born with black hair desperately pay the price.

Puerto Rico was home to 16 types of bats, but 2 species have already gone extinct, like so many Caribbean animals that have left the face of the Earth recently. According to the book Bats of Puerto Rico: An Island Focus and a Caribbean Perspective by Michael R. Gannon, the Caribbean holds some of the most fascinating species of bats, and these creatures are the only naturally occuring mammals on Puerto Rico that were not introduced by the Taino, Spanish, or Africans. Other than those who eat only nectar or fish, most species of Puerto Rican bats are happy to live off of our very bountiful array of insects, or rotting fruits. You would think we would follow the example of Austin, TX and love our bats unconditionally! We are trying, through the Puerto Rico Departamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales, to identify where the majority of these little guys live so we can declare conservaional habitats for them, and there are many programs trying to educate and open the local communities to how awesome these little guys really are!

Black cats are not so lucky, and still do not have public opinion on their side. Every year around Halloween, and every unlucky Friday the 13th, there are reports of black cats getting killed on the island. Local T/N/R professionals Save A Gato always have their eyes and ears to the ground, helping the street cats of Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico, and they always find fosters or temporary homes for their pure black friends on the street. No animal shelters will, or should, have any black cats available for adoption, for fear of them being abused, tortured or killed. Even if not satanic or witch-like, black cats still have a negative aura to them on the island, and should be protected at all costs during these times of the year.
Hopefully throughout the year we will promote bats & cats enough that by next Halloween they will be a little less scary (or scared) and shown a bit more love!