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A Bold Experiment


A Bold Experiment


In 1997 J. David Bamberger broke ground on the first ever man-made bat cave. The project was as expensive as it was risky, and there was little reason to believe it would work. But Bamberger, the esteemed conservationist and erstwhile co-founder of Church’s Chicken, was undaunted. He knew he was creating a spectacle, and the press ate it up. Journalists from New York to Berlin covered the story, with no shortage of snark. "He's going batty," one headline read. But Bamberger had spent a lifetime confounding naysayers, and he just knew it would work.

Four years after the cave was built, it stood empty. His hypothesis, that engineering a colony of bats could reduce the need for pesticides, was becoming a joke. Then, on a hot summer day in August, a journalist from San Antonio followed up and scooped the story. There were no bats. As he prepared a story on "Bamberger's Folly," Bamberger himself took one last walk up to the bat cave and witnessed a miracle. That evening, ten thousand bats began streaming out of his cave. He wept. Today, the cave is the seasonal home to roughly half a million Mexican free-tailed bats, and stands as the only successful man-made bat cave in the world.








"i wanted something quite a bit more than a bat house. I wanted it big time."

j. david bamberger