October 28, 2016 — If you’ve ever looked closely at a Bacardi label you’ll notice it incorporates a bat. The company’s association with bats dates back to its founding in 1862 when Doña Amalia Bacardí, the founder’s wife, spotted a colony of fruit bats in the rafters of the first Bacardi distillery in Santiago de Cuba. In Spain, where the Bacardí family emigrated from, and with the native Taíno Indians in their new homeland of Cuba, bats symbolized good health, family unity and good fortune, so the Bacardi founder made sure the bats remained in the distillery and became identified with his rum.
More than 150 years on, this environmentally conscious, family-owned company is actively protecting the bat at its Bacardi rum bottling facility in Jacksonville, Florida. Wooden bat caves, which stand 20-feet off the ground, are being erected and within just a few months, they will be full of tenants – the kind that hang upside down and fly out at night.
The three bat caves hold up to a total of 500 bats. The two single-chambered bat caves can house between 50-100 bats, and the one triple-chambered cave can hold between 200-300 bats.
Bacardi is collaborating with the Lubee Bat Conservancy. Together, the two organizations are working hard to fight the devastation of habitat depletion that has occurred for bats, the world’s only flying mammals. The mutual goal is to preserve and provide crucial habitats for the local bat population to help maintain the community’s natural wetlands, farming, and forest areas. In fact, the Bacardi wildlife team consists of 11 employees who volunteer to manage 21 acres of wildlife habitat as part of a Wildlife at Work program that has been certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council since 2013. Several of these Bacardi employees, as well as several Lubee Bat Conservancy employees, worked together on this project. Rural and residential areas surround the 92-acre Bacardi facility, which includes on-site habitats such as wetlands, forest, and grasslands that have been replanted with native species of plants and flowers.
Just in time for Halloween, the number of bats at the facility, which include the Mexican free-tailed, Evening bat, Tricolored and Eastern red bats, is expected to grow as the fall season advances, colder weather creeps in and breeding groups start to form. All of the species, except the Eastern red bats, will roost in the bat houses. Although bats are nocturnal, they can be heard vocalizing during the day. Bats are extremely social and will spend considerable time grooming and communicating with others in their colony. At night, these aerial acrobats use echolocation to navigate and find insect prey, many species of which are agricultural pests. Although most bat species use echolocation, they can see very well. All Florida bat species are insectivorous and provide essential ecological and economic services.
“Conservation and sustainability have been a part of who Bacardi has been since the very beginning nearly 155 years ago. We’ve now come full-circle with these bat caves as we live out this legacy,” says Julio Torruella, global environment director for Bacardi, adding, “Bats are vital to the health of natural ecosystems and human economies, so preservation of their habitats makes great sense with regard to sustainability.”