Our next generation network celebrates 30 years of Whitley Fund for Nature and looks ahead to the future of conservation, philanthropy, and biodiversity-positive alcohol!
Following two days of thought-provoking discussions at the #PeopleForPlanet Summit, WFN NextGen celebrated 30 years of Whitley Awards with a taste of ‘Bat-Friendly’ mezcal.
2012 Whitley Gold Award winner Rodrigo Medellin gave an inspiring talk about his success in saving the tequila bats – essential pollinators for agave plants.
You can see a gallery of photos from the evening here.
Why are bats important to the production of tequila and mezcal?
Agave plants are used to make tequila and mezcal. After decades of monoculture plantations harvesting agave before they could flower, the plants began suffering from a lack of genetic diversity.
Without the opportunity to flower and cross-pollinate, the plants became vulnerable to disease and the bats lost their primary food source, causing populations to decline rapidly.
When disease then devastated the weakened crops, producers were able to recognise the important role bats play in improving and securing their livelihoods. Luckily, Rodrigo had the science and the dedication to capitalise on this realisation. He soon established the ‘Bat-Friendly’ project, a certification process that ensures production includes measures that benefit bats and the flowers they feed on.
To qualify as ‘Bat-Friendly,’ mezcal and tequila productions must allow at least 5% of the agave crop to bloom, encouraging bats to visit and pollinate the plants. The seeds from these agaves are then used by producers to establish greater genetic diversity within their plantations.
Bat-friendly products are distinguished by a hologram label, a seal of approval for one of the most rapidly growing alcohols in the world. Bottles will be available from select London retailers and venues in 2024!
Securing a future for the bats
WFN NextGen members and friends were lucky enough to spend and evening hanging out with Rodrigo, where they had the opportunity try certified bat-friendly mezcal for themselves!
Rodrigo is also empowering the next generation by building capacity among his students and young bat conservationists across the Global South to continue protecting these important species.
NextGen committee member and wildlife filmmaker, Nick Gates compèred the evening, representing the next generation of conservationists in Britain. It was a fascinating discussion, brought to a close with a toast to the bats and the people working to save them!
As WFN’s youth engagement and fundraising initiative, NextGen brings together young people who are passionate about wildlife conservation, channelling their energy and enthusiasm into raising funds for the grassroots initiatives of Whitley Award winners around the world.
Through ticket sales and donations on the night, the NextGen network raised around £2,000! These funds will go directly to a 2023 Continuation Funding grant, and we will be announcing the recipient in the coming weeks. Be sure to sign up to the newsletter and follow us on social media to find out more!
We would like to thank our official events partner, Urban Greens and the Old Sessions House for providing an incredible venue, Don Mateo de la Sierra for the mezcal, and our NextGen Committee for their work in organising the event!
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