By KEVIN DUFFY
Capital News Service
LANSING – Hollywood superstar Ben Affleck is switching on the bat-signal for one his favorite species: the bat.
The star of the forthcoming movie “Batman v Superman,” the film’s director Zack Snyder and the rest of the crew took time out of their long shooting schedule in Michigan to join the fight against white-nose syndrome.
It’s a fungal disease that threatens the survival of insect-devouring bats that support a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry. Without bats, U.S. farmers would pay an annual $3.7 billion for pest control, according to a study by university and U.S. Geological Survey researchers published in Science.
And without bats, Affleck – who portrays Batman in the movie – wouldn’t be able to don the iconic batsuit.
The National Wildlife Health Center said white-nose syndrome has “spread from the northeastern to the central United States at an alarming rate. Since the winter of 2007-08, millions of insect-eating bats in 25 states and five Canadian provinces have died from this devastating disease.”
The disease’s presence in Michigan was confirmed in April, the center reported.
An online public service announcement that the movie’s bat crew shot garnered more than one million views in just three days.
And it delivered a “much-needed media boost for public education about bats,” said Rob Mies, director of the Organization for Bat Conservation based at the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills. Affleck and his colleagues visited the organization’s Bat Zone headquarters.
“Bats are among the most overlooked, yet ecologically and economically friendly species on the planet,” said Mies.
Both Affleck and Snyder “seemed excited to be promoting the cause,” said Mies, who also appears in the public service spot.
Six million bats inhabiting nearly half of the United States have died since 2006 due to the syndrome, pushing several species to the verge of extinction.
The insect-eating bats are primarily susceptible to the European imported white-nose fungus, which has wiped out 99 percent of the long-eared bat species in the American Northeast.
But Mies said hope is not lost.
Beside the genuine interest he noted in Affleck and his costars, the public service announcement brought an influx of curiosity – emails and phone calls about ways people can help.
It encourages fans of the mammals to donate to the Organization for Bat Conservation, build bat houses and don their own Save the Bats apparel.
Of course, Affleck already has that last one covered.
Donations are used to fight effects of white-nose syndrome.
Kevin Duffy writes for Great Lakes Echo.
Additional resources for CNS editors
Public service announcement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVIpW25r9uY
Organization for Bat Conservation: http://www.savebats.org