SAVE THE BATS
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The Problem

The IUCN has assessed 1,296 species of bat. Information on bat populations is often deficient, so it can be very difficult to note changes in population size and dynamics.

The IUCN has assessed 1,296 species of bat. Information on bat populations is often deficient, so it can be very difficult to note changes in population size and dynamics.

In many parts of the world, bats are considered to be pests or characters in harmful myths and can be persecuted. Larger bats may also be hunted for their meat, which is consumed in some parts of the world.  Habitat loss is a major threat to bat species globally. Deforestation for farming, mining and human construction is having a significant negative impact on many bat populations, since they need trees to roost in. Other species of bat roost in caves. The homes of these species are also threatened, thanks to inappropriate tourism and the mining of bat droppings, which are used as fertiliser.

A nasty fungal disease called white-nose syndrome threatens bats in the US and Canada, and in some countries, populations are threatened by the rise in wind turbines, which cause many bat deaths as the mammals fly into the blades. Cats (both domestic and feral) pose a further threat to bats. They are renowned for predating on bats and are known to wait outside a roosting site and pick off bats one-by-one as they fly out to feed.

Environmental Consequences

The IUCN has assessed 1,296 species of bat and of those, nearly one third are listed as threatened or data deficient. 23 bat species as Critically Endangered, meaning they face an imminent risk of extinction, as all of them have fewer than 250 adults remaining

Fifty-three others are Endangered, and 104 bat species are considered Vulnerable.

Here are the 23 “critically endangered” bat species:

 

Aproteles bulmerae (Bulmer’s Fruit Bat); Artibeus incomitatus (Solitary Fruit-eating Bat); Coleura seychellensis (Seychelles Sheath-tailed Bat); Dobsonia chapmani (Philippine Bare-backed Fruit Bat); Eumops floridanus (Florida Bonneted Bat); Hipposideros lamottei (Lamotte’s Roundleaf Bat); Mirimiri acrodonta (Fijian Monkey-faced Bat); Murina tenebrosa (Gloomy Tube-nosed Bat); Myotis hajastanicus (Armenian Whiskered Bat); Myotis yanbarensis (Yanbaru Whiskered Bat); Mystacina robusta (New Zealand Greater Short-tailed Bat); Natalus jamaicensis (Jamaican Greater Funnel-eared Bat); Natalus primus (Cuban Greater Funnel-eared Bat); Nyctophilus howensis (Lord Howe Long-eared Bat); Nyctophilus nebulosus (New Caledonia Long-eared Bat); Pharotis imogene (Thomas’s Big-eared Bat); Pipistrellus murrayi (Christmas IslandPipistrelle); Pteralopex flanneryi (Greater Monkey-faced Bat); Pteralopex pulchra (Montane Monkey-faced Bat); Pteronotus paraguanensis

Pteropus insularis (Ruck Flying Fox); Pteropus pselaphon (Bonin Flying Fox)

Rhinolophus hilli (Hill’s Horseshoe Bat).

The “most endangered” one is probably Lamotte’s Roundleaf Bat. Six individuals were known in 2004, living in caves on Nimba mountain, threatened both by hunters looking for bats to eat and miners looking for iron ore.

If a population suffers a crash, for example due to a cull or natural disaster, it can take a long time to recover: bats have a low reproduction rate, with each female typically only having one pup per year.

Bats have an extremely important environmental role, helping to maintain ecosystems all over the world. They are key to seed dispersal and pollination and, particularly in some parts of the world – such as tropical and desert ecosystems – are vital to maintaining the abundance and diversity of plants necessary for a healthy ecosystem. Many plants are reliant exclusively on pollination by bats for survival.

 

Fruit-eating bats are important for local economies; without them, fruits could not be produced in such quantities. Where areas of rainforest have been damaged, no other groups of animal are as efficient at restoring the habitat as bats. They are particularly important for dispersing pioneer plant species – those that are form the first layer of vegetation in cleared areas. Bats defecate when they are flying and their droppings also provide excellent fertiliser for plants.

 

Insectivorous bats also hold important roles in ecosystems. They consume huge quantities of insects and keep the numbers down, helping reduce the impact of insect pets of agriculture. It is thought that in the US, bats save upwards of $3.7 billion in crop damage and pesticide use.

 

Bats are found all over the world. Their functions are clear and the extinction of bat species can have significant, irreversible impacts on ecosystems globally.

Possible Solutions

Since there are so many different threats facing bats, there are also many ways that they can be helped through conservation initiatives. Organisations all over the world are working to protect groups of bat species in different regions; the most effective methods of conservation will vary depending on the region and the biggest issues there.

The reduction of habitat loss is key to saving bats. Bat surveys should be undertaken before altering an area of forest of caves, and this should be implemented around the world on a local scale. Initiatives are also underway to reduce harmful tourism activities in bat caves and encourage the use of bat boxes in forests and gardens.

 

No solution has been found to white-nose syndrome, so resources here are being targeted at monitoring and scientific research into the disease and its spread. To prevent fatalities caused by wind turbines, conservation organisations are campaigning to change policy and regulation to minimise the impact of these farms on bats. Various new technologies have been developed to prevent bats from flying into turbines, such as ultrasound deterrents.

 

Elsewhere, there are campaigns to change the behaviours of cat owners. Keeping cats inside at dawn and dusk can have a significant positive impact on bat populations. There are also methods to reduce outdoor cats’ predation impact on bats, such as attaching bells to collars.

WSO Friend of the Earth Bats conservation initiatives

WSO Friend of the Earth project contributes to bat conservation undertaking initiatives globally

WSO Friend of the Earth project contributes to bat conservation undertaking initiatives globally

A bat conservation campaign will focus on the 24 most endangered species, collecting signatures via a Change.org petition and making local governments aware of the problem and the need for conservation action.

 

Friend of the Earth also selects deserving conservation projects to be supported and funded and it will report on this page on major achievements.  Funds will be directed to specific projects aiming to protect and restore bat habitats and hot spots, and research methods to tackle white-nose syndrome.

 

Friend of the Earth also promotes awareness at schools, on socials and when working with companies in particular in the agriculture sector, in order to reduce their impact on bats populations. Friend of the Earth certified products comply with a set of requirements which include protection of the ecosystem in the agricultural site. When purchasing Friend of the Earth’s products you will also contribute to bats conservation.

Call to action

  • Bats are one of the most important groups of mammals in terms of ecosystem function. This is particularly true in a time where the world has undergone such considerable deforestation and habitat adaptation. Bats are often the best means of dispersing seeds and increasing the rate of recovery in these situations.
  • To help save this diverse group of animals, contribute to one of the many worthy bat-based conservation programmes. Look up bat conservation in your local area and there is bound to be some important conservation work underway, or else check out the work of Bat Conservation International.
  • Why not write to your local council or energy company to ask what they are doing to help protect bats? Show decision-makers that you care about these incredible species, and they should too.
  • Sign Friend of the Earth Change.org petition and choose only Friend of the Earth certified products. Support Friend of the Earth’s efforts by donating for bat conservation.

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