Wings of the Night
Sustainable Action for Mosquito-borne Disease Prevention
Pilot Bat Rooting Module in Sucusari, Peru
Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?
Website or social media url(s) (optional):
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)
1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."
Every year, nearly 1 billion people are infected with a mosquito-borne illness resulting in over one million deaths. Even as daunting as these morbidity statistics are, the true disaster of mosquito vectored diseases lies in the personal toll they take at the family level, especially in rural communities.
Cofounders Ana and Isaac knew very intimately the suffering these diseases cause through their home countries of Angola and Malawi. My contribution as CEO of Wings of the Night blends my background in biology with my work in international development. The issues surrounding malaria and other diseases encompass a wicked problem, one with no quick fix. A disconnect exists between technological advancement and cultural competency. Wings of the Night was created understanding the importance personal lifestyle and traditional, sustainable approaches hold in fighting back against malaria.
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Mosquito-borne diseases remain a major challenge to global public health. In 2016, 3.2 billion people lived at risk of malarial infection alone with 445,000 deaths estimated. Combating malaria can be difficult as many of society’s most vulnerable lack access to vital resources and medical facilities. The current approaches for preventing malaria are often costly, unsustainable, and position individuals to choose between prevention and comfort.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Wings of the Night proposes a unique, ecofriendly, and financially viable preventative approach to help deplete the infection rate of malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases in the most vulnerable regions utilizing an important biological resource: bats.
Native insectivorous bats are attracted through the construction of large volume bat roosting modules near the edge of the community in suitable conditions. Bats serve as a biological control depleting the micropopulation of mosquitoes and provide 4 distinct advantages: 1) Predation, 2) Ultrasound Avoidance in mosquitoes, 3) Nocturnal vs diurnal behavior, and 4) Guano fertilizer.
Wings of the Night supplements already present methods of malarial prevention. At a local scale, the utilization of bats as mosquito control can increase disposable income as less reliance is placed on other more costly and invasive measures. Community members do not have to choose between comfort and protection as bat predation goes on independently, not interfering with livelihoods. Lastly, housing models are equipped with guano harvesting devices. Guano is a nutrient-rich fertilizer which can be sold and used to catalyze sustainable agriculture.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
Why bats? The first impressions of these mammals are often not positive, however, understanding the benefits bats provide is a key aspect to Wings of the Night. Bats are extremely successful predators; under ideal conditions, a lone bat is capable of eating 1,000 mosquitoes in a single hour. A bat’s hunting range can extend several kilometers over varied terrain and hunt without disrupting community members. Bats and flying insects have a long co-evolutionary relationship. Bats hunt using echo-location. The capability to detect ultrasonic signals from bats has evolved in insects, including mosquitos. Large concentrations of bats saturate an area with ultrasonic waves, stimulating mosquitoes to avoid that region. Through predation and ultrasound avoidance, establishing large-volume bat communities near residential areas can create a sphere of protection from mosquitoes for the community.
5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
Preventative approaches to depleting malaria often fall into 3 categories: medication, insecticide, and bet nets. There is no vaccine for malaria, and medication is not viable for continual use. Insecticides are costly, not health promoting, and also present risk of organism resistance. A mosquito net is effective when an individual sleeps under it; however, in hot, humid climates the net creates a sauna effect.
Wings of the Night fills the gaps in these other approaches by going on behind the scenes. Bat attraction supports biodiversity and sustainability with zero cost to the individual.
6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
Our pilot project was launched in March of 2017 in Sucusari, Peru, a very remote Maijuna community in the Amazon basin of Peru. The community of about 250 suffers greatly from mosquitos and works in collaboration with ecotourism and conservation organizations. While building the 30 foot tall prototype, the entire community joined in supporting the construction process, both young and old. Since establishment, the community has not only grown an appreciation for bats as successful predators, but also has seen an influx of ecotourism from guests desiring to see how nature can be used effectively in health innovation.
A follow-up trip will occur in August, 2018 to provide species specifc information on insectavorous bats and compare mosquito density levels. In one year, ~20 other Amazonian communities have expressed desire to have bat roosting modules estbalished in their communities.
7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
The first week of August, a follow-up visit will take place in Sucusari in collaboration with my team and a vertebrate ecologist specializing in bats. The purpose of this trip will be to document specific bat species and cater design plans to these particular bats. Additionally, the Sucusari community will be an annual destination for students studying abroad for the month of May to help complement this research and learn about the community and bats through Wartburg College.
Wings of the Night desires to connect communities highlighting the importance of science and nature as agents of empowerment, not tools for cultural exploitation. We hope to connect communities in the Global North and South as collaborative bat housing partners.
8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?
Wings of the Night is currently partnered with many local Peruvian organizations helping build trust and access including Conapac, OnePlanet, Amazon Rainforest Workshops, and EcoTeach. These organization work in collaboration with Wings of the Night through community action, conservation, and education. We also are partnered with Amazon Exporama Lodges which provide ecotourism opportunities in tangent with Maijuna communities. We also work in collaboration with Wartburg College and the U of MN Acara Institute. Each year Wartburg College sends students to study aboard in Peru working directly with the project. Several other academic institutions also provide student support. Lastly, we are Resolution Project Fellows supporting pilot funding.
9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
Donations less than $100
Donations between $100-$1k
Donations between $1k-$5k
10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.
The mission behind Wings of the Night connects science, nature, and cultural identity. Oftentimes scientific and health advancements can be used as tools for exploitation. In collaboration with other changemakers, we can foster a community of connected young people that understand this divide and strive to help unite the world. Every person has something to offer in combating poverty, disease, and disaster. Wings of the Night derives a potential solution from working with local communities and understanding "experts" from across the seas don't always have the answers. Working with other changemakers, we can help connect and expand geographic scopes and unite people in helping tackle wicked problems.
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?
White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?
No, I do not identify with an underrepresented community
How did you hear about this challenge?
Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?
Megan Voorhees and the Acara Institute at the University of Minnesota provided information on getting involved with the T-Mobile Changemaker Challenge. We are very excited for this opportunity, and thank Megan for letting us know!