From: Associated Press
Published April 12, 2006 12:00 AM

Cameras Banned From Carlsbad Caverns

CARLSBAD CAVERNS NATIONAL PARK, N.M. — The bats flying from Carlsbad Caverns National Park each evening will no longer have to face the cameras -- the park has banned photography because people kept using flash against the rules.

The park allowed photos as long as flashes weren't used, but flash photos still were being taken, park Superintendent John Benjamin said Monday.

"As a technologically challenged person, I can't figure out how to turn off the flash on my own camera," he said. "The only way to prevent flash photography entirely is to eliminate cameras altogether."

Several scientific studies have documented that light -- especially white light such as flash photography -- disturbs the bats.

The southeastern New Mexico park is home to an estimated 400,000 Mexican free-tail bats as well as 15 other species of bats. Park officials said they want to avoid disturbing them as much as possible, and one way to do that is to eliminate photography, including video cameras, at the evening flights.

"There are some places where the use of cameras just isn't appropriate," Benjamin said.

The park said in a news release that a study of Mexican free-tail bats in Texas found camera flashes and video-recorder lights caused bats emerging from a cave to veer away, and a bank of television lights at the entrance stopped them from coming out at all. Other lights disoriented the bats, and some crashed into vegetation.

Scientists filming the bat flight at Carlsbad Caverns in the 1970s illuminated the entrance with movie lights for five seconds at a time, and each time, the flight immediately stopped.

The park's news release it's difficult to get good-quality photos of a bat flight under any circumstances, and the risks to the bats aren't worth the results most visitors get.

Evening bat flight programs at the caverns' natural entrance will begin in mid-May and will continue through October, or until the bats migrate to Mexico for the winter. The free programs begin around sunset each night.

Source: Associated Press

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