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Hawaiian hoary bat to be named official state land mammal

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Hawaiian hoary bat to be named official state land mammal

Published on April 21, 2015

Hawaiian hoary batOn Wednesday, Gov. David Ige is expected to sign Senate Bill 1183, which will designate the Hawaiian hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus semotus), also called ōpe‘ape‘a, as Hawaii’s official state land mammal.

In a news release issued Monday by Sen. Sam Slom’s office, the state lawmaker (R, Diamond Head, Kahala, Hawaii Kai) said: "The ōpe‘ape‘a is worthy of the title ” because“ it has been here for so long, and faithfully provides free pest control services to us all. Most importantly, this bipartisan effort to elevate the bat's status to state land mammal will increase awareness of the environmental issues affecting its survival."

Scores of admirers lauded the bat's praises in advocating for the bill, including Bat Conservation International, as they submitted testimony on the measure in public hearings held at the Hawai‘i Capitol.

Bat Conservation International’s Senior Director for US/Canada Conservation programs Mylea Bayless was one of several people who submitted testimony in support.

“State land mammal designation would highlight this unique and valuable creature to the public. We believe that bat conservation works best when bats are understood and appreciated by the local communities in which they live” Bayless said.

The bat designation could also have a positive economic impact, Bayless said: “Texas designated the Mexican free-tailed bat as official state flying mammal in 1995, and Texas Parks and Wildlife has called Mexican free-tailed bats our state’s ‘Billion Dollar Bats’ because of the economic impact that bats have—from pest control to ecotourism dollars.”

The ōpe‘ape‘a will join the pulelehua or Kamehameha butterfly (insect), nene goose (bird), humpback whale (marine mammal), monk seal (mammal) and humuhumunukunukuapua‘a (fish) to take its rightful place in the elite club of official Hawai‘i state animals.

Here are some quick facts on the ōpe‘ape‘a:

  • The ōpe‘ape‘a is Hawai‘i's only native land mammal, and is a subspecies found only in Hawai‘i. Fossils reveal its presence in Hawai‘i as early as 10,000 years ago.
  • The ōpe‘ape‘a is insectivorous, and eats mosquitoes, moths, beetles, termites, flies and other insects
  • The ōpe‘ape‘a is listed as an endangered species by the federal US Fish and Wildlife Service, and by the state.  Deforestation and collision with man-made structures like wind turbines and barbed wire fences pose a threat to the ōpe‘ape‘a population.
  • The ōpe‘ape‘a uses echolocation to hunt, meaning it creates ultrasonic pulses in its throat and emits the pulses through its mouth or nose, which bounces off insect prey, transmitting the location of the prey to the ōpe‘ape‘a.

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