A 2015 BBC documentary, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, acclaimed Rodrigo Medellín as “The Bat Man of Mexico.” However, his lifelong research and dedication to the conservation of these poorly understood mammals has had a geographic impact far greater than his native country alone. Rodrigo is an ecologist and Senior Professor at UNAM in the Laboratorio de Ecología y Conservación de Vertebrados Terrestres and has spent over 40 years working on the conservation and ecology of bats, ocelots, jaguars, and other threatened vertebrate species in Mexico and Latin America.
Among a multitude of significant positions and honors, he has served as president of the Society of Conservation Biology from 2013-2015, was awarded the Rolex Prize for Enterprise in 2008, and received the Whitley Fund for Nature Gold in 2012. He is the founding director of the Latin American Network for Bat Conservation, and holds positions with the IUCN and UN, as well as having served as vice-chair of the CITES Animals Committee. He has authored over 200 publications.
Rodrigo is well aware of the public’s generally negative view of bats, despite their critical importance to humans as insectivores and pollinators. Because of his understanding of the lesser long-nosed bat pollination of the blue agave, Rodrigo has recently created a unique alliance between ecologists and tequila producers. For many years, farmers never allowed the agaves to flower, since the plant dies after flowering, thus ending the production of tequila for that individual. However, by helping the producers understand that preserving the historic bat pollination of blue agave flowers results in the increased health and genetic diversity of their crop, he has convinced some farmers to allow a small percentage of their plants to flower. The result is that several tequila brands are now able to display a “bat-friendly” label on their bottles as part of a marketing campaign to benefit both the bats and the tequila industry.