The fully-renovated perennial family favourite is more interactive, educational and spookier than ever!
(Toronto, Ontario – January 25, 2010) The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is pleased to announce the re-opening of the famed Bat Cave on February 27, 2010! Completely renovated and updated, the new Bat Cave is larger and more interactive with special effects as well as audiovisual displays guiding visitors through a multi-sensory journey inside a recreated bat habitat. From the shadowy cave mouth, home to hundreds of roosting bats, to its finale, featuring a dramatization of the nightly exodus of the bat colony taking flight, the new Bat Cave promises a fascinating immersive and educational adventure.
The Bat Cave is located on Level 2, Philosophers’ Walk Wing in the ROM’s Heritage Building. First opened in 1988, the gallery realistically portrays the renowned St. Clair Cave in Jamaica. The remodeled 1.700-square-foot gallery features more than 20 bat specimens and over 800 models, some mechanized, to thrill visitors of all ages while teaching them about bat species, navigation and behaviour, as well as the ecology of the cave in which they live.
“Ever since the Bat Cave first opened over two decades ago, it’s been one of the ROM’s most well-loved galleries,” said William Thorsell, ROM Director and CEO. “This new re-imagined Bat Cave is bigger, more realistic and makes use of the latest technologies to inspire new generations of visitors with the wonders of the natural world. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Canada for financial assistance as part of the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, without which this project would not have been possible.”
BAT CAVE EXPERIENCE AREAS
“The Bat Cave is an invitation to ROM visitors to explore the world of bats,” said Judith Eger, Senior Curator, Mammalogy. “While visiting the gallery, visitors will be immersed in a replica of a real cave, learn how bats navigate in the dark, how the cave provides a day refuge for bats, a place to raise their young, and how it provides a backdrop for the nightly exodus to find food.”
Explore the World of Bats
Leading into the mouth of the Bat Cave is a long corridor providing an introduction to the characteristics of bats and what they eat. Taxidermied bat specimens and a video screen displaying images of bat faces provide an up-close-and-personal glimpse into the world of these elusive creatures. Visitors are introduced to the unique way bats navigate in the dark, a process known as echolocation where bats send out high-pitched sounds and navigate around objects based on the returning echoes. Visitors also learn that most bats eat insects, some eat fruit and a small number of bats eat meat; only three species of the more than 1,100 known species of bats actually feed on blood. On the opposite side of the corridor, a long tableau provides a visual history of bats in cultural context, encompassing everything from an ancient Zapotec figure to a modern-day portrayal of Dracula.
Panels in the cave mouth describe how the ROM’s Bat Cave is a realistic portrayal of the St. Clair Cave in Jamaica, a complex, 3-kilometre-long grotto formed by an underground river that runs through limestone rock across the centre of the island. Visitors learn what sights, sounds and smells would be awaiting them upon entering the actual Cave. The St. Clair Cave is accessed through a sinkhole, a sunken area covered in lush vegetation where the earth above has caved in due to erosion by an underground river. Lurking near the entrance would be predators, such as snakes and feral cats, hoping to catch bats as they fly out. Upon entering the St. Clair Cave, the air would be very hot and humid, and visitors would expect to see vast amounts of foul-smelling bat dung, called guano, littering the ground. Cockroaches would be everywhere feasting on the guano.
“The St. Clair Cave is one of the largest of its kind in the country and home to half of the 20 bat species known from the island,” said Burton Lim, Assistant Curator, Mammalogy. “The hundreds of modeled bats in our cave give a feel for the tens of thousands found in the real cave. If you can’t visit Jamaica to see the amazing St. Clair Cave, the ROM’s Bat Cave is certainly the next best thing.”
This area also provides a Bat Cave Field Guide to help visitors identify the animal species they encounter in the Cave. Six bat species are represented, and can be identified by their differing facial features and the areas within the cave they prefer to roost. In addition to bats, a number of invertebrates inhabit the Cave including crickets, crabs, cockroaches, scorpions, beetles and spiders.
Inside the Bat Cave
Once inside the Bat Cave, through the dim lighting, visitors peer into deep rocky recesses where bats are roosting. The floor of the central cavern is covered with simulated guano and visitors see a moving carpet of cockroaches and other invertebrates, hear water dripping, bats communicating, and bat wings flapping, recreating the experience of walking through a real cave. At regular points among the Bat Cave’s twist and turns, certain important activities of bat life are highlighted. Near the entrance, the Fruit Bat Roosting area displays a cluster of Jamaican Fruit Bats in their day roost. The Grooming area portrays bats’ social behaviour of grooming during the day, in preparation for feeding at night. Located at the gallery’s centre, The Cavern creates a natural theatre within the Bat Cave. Visitors are immersed in a two-minute audiovisual presentation, presented in both English and French and suitable for all ages, elaborating on cave formation, the use of caves by bats as day refuges, echolocation and the animals that share the cave with the bats. Visitors will see bats in flight and a cluster of bats jostling each other. The Bat Nursery portrays interaction between mothers and their young, including nursing and grooming. The Bat Exodus dramatically recreates the actual nightly exodus when thousands of bats take flight at once, leaving their daytime refuge to hunt for food before returning to the roost by dawn.
ROM BAT CAVE HISTORY
Four years in development, the original Bat Cave design was based on fieldwork conducted in the St. Clair Cave during March 1984 by a ROM crew that included curators, artists, preparators and a photographer. The team documented all aspects of the cave, including its design and ecology. The artists also took casts of the walls and roof of the cave system, including the rocks, stalactites and stalagmites—everything but the temperature and smell of the cave was ultimately reproduced. Designers of the 2010 Bat Cave drew on the original research as well as data gathered during a recent field trip to Jamaica. As a result, the renovated Bat Cave features new, high resolution images, video clips of bats in flight, a more realistic cave floor and emphasizes the variety of animals that live alongside the bats.
MARCH IS BAT MONTH
March is Bat Month at the ROM as the entire Museum celebrates the re-opening of the Bat Cave with special programming for the entire family included free with ROM admission. Every Saturday and Sunday from February 27 to March 28, live bat demonstrations, costumes, batty crafts and more will entertain and educate kids of all ages. Also, during Bat Month children receive a free bat crown, while quantities last. On March 6 and 7, Families can explore the world of bats close-up with Bill “Bat Boy” Scully’s lively informational and interactive presentations, including a view of a live bat. On the weekends of March Break, March 13 and 14 as well as March 20 and 21, African Lion Safari presents a live Indian Flying Fox bat for encounters with the public every half hour. On March 27 and 28, learn about echolocation with live bats! Demonstrations by Dr. Paul Faure, the principle investigator at the McMaster Bat Lab, will amaze visitors of all ages. Information about Bat Month programming is subject to change. Check www.rom.on.ca for updated information.
After exploring the Bat Cave, the ROM’s casual family restaurant Food Studio Café offers hungry adventurers a number of bat-themed goodies. Featured is the “Bat Wings” chicken wing special, served with carrot sticks, celery and blue cheese dip. Most bats eat fruit, but children will prefer to finish their meal with Flo’s Batty Cupcakes or a variety of dulce de leche and bat character cookies.
Opening February 27 is a new ROMKids Store located right at the Bat Cave’s exit. Offering child and family-friendly animal-themed merchandise, the ROMKids Store will carry toys and games for every young bat fan. Featured is a Batwing Flyer that throws like a ball, flies like a bat! The center core of the ball has a spinning gyroscope that stabilizes the bat in mid-flight. The Windy Bat Kite is also high-flying fun. This stealthy flier has a sleek and graceful design that allows it to fly in most wind conditions. Check out these products and many more, including a fun new line of ROM t-shirts, upon exiting the Bat Cave.
On March 27, 2010, shadowy corners and winged creatures provide inspiration for the Young Patrons’ Circle’s (YPC) fifth annual fundraiser, PROM V: Noir, hosted by MTV’s Jessi Cruickshank and Dan Levy. In what promises to be a thrilling night of dark glamour and cinematic fantasy, PROM V: Noir will welcome hundreds of YPC members and guests for a sensational step back into old Hollywood, in the era of private eyes and femmes fatales. Revellers will experience the drama of a dazzling Golden Age film première—with a contemporary twist—as they pose for a mob of flashbulbs on the black carpet and shimmy the night away on a fierce dance floor to the sounds of a live Big Band and stellar Toronto DJs. VIP ticket-holders also enjoy access to an exclusive supper club experience, plus special tours of the new Bat Cave, followed by private food and beverage service at the PROM party. All proceeds from PROM V: Noir support ROM priorities, including the ROM School Visits Bursary Program.
ROM Members already know that the best way to experience the ROM is through Membership. A ROM Individual or Family Membership delivers numerous benefits, including free general admission, newsletters, events, previews, discounts and much more. An exclusive Bat Cave Members' Sneak Peek takes place on Friday, February 26 from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm. For additional information or to purchase a membership, call 416.586.5700 or visit www.rom.on.ca/members.
Admission to the Bat Cave is included with paid general admission. Adults: $22; Students and Seniors with ID: $19; Children (4 to 14 years) $15; Children 3 & under are free. Half price admission, presented by Sun Life Financial, applies on Friday nights from 4:30 to 9:30 pm. Groups of 10 or more adults may call Mirvish Productions Group Sales at 416.593.4142 or 1.800.724.6420 for information on special rates and private guided tours. Schools and student groups should visit www.rom.on.ca/schools/ or call the ROM’s Education Department at 416.586.5801 for information.