The Alviela caves are located in the Natura 2000 site “Parque Natural das Serras de Aire e Candeeiros” situated to the north of Lisbon and are a protected habitat type in their own right. In addition, 12 bat species are known to use this area as a roosting and wintering site. As the famous caves are subject to a high degree of anthropic pressure and other threats such as pollution, it is important to raise awareness of their immense value for biodiversity and also of their fragile nature. The project “World upside down: knowing and preserving bats” aims to raise awareness on the conservation of bats in the Alviela cave system in Portugal.
The Science Center “Centro Ciência Viva do Alviela” launched a major information campaign on the caves and their resident bats. A wide variety of awareness raising measures were undertaken. A fixed exhibition “Quiroptário” and a mobile exhibition for children were created, together with a “Bat Observatory” where real-time video cameras enable people to observe the bats close up inside the cave.
Two national student contests were organised for stop-motion videos, a website was set up, and an illustrated book, “Bat’s Life”, was produced and offered to 2 000 children from elementary schools. Field trips for secondary school students were undertaken, and workshops were organised for teachers, tourism managers and employees of the National Network of Science Centres. Additionally, a series of events were held every year during the European Bat Night.
The project has reached between 50 000 and 100 000 people in Portugal. 7 000 students from 17 schools and some 40 000 visitors form 14 educational centres have visited the mobile exhibition. 150 teenagers have participated in field trips and science camps. 150 Bat Night actions involved more than 3 000 participants in various parts of the country. The high number of people reached highlights the success of this project in raising awareness on the conservation importance of the Alviela caves and their resident bats.