Five key BCI milestones in 2022


By Kristen Pope

In 2022, Bat Conservation International (BCI) celebrated incredible successes, such as discovering the first known maternity roost for a Critically Endangered species, nearing a goal of planting 100,000 agaves, hiring incredible new talent to join the team, and less joyous but equally important milestones, such as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service decision to list the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) as Endangered, and a proposal to soon list tricolored bats (Perimyotis subflavus) as Endangered.

As we enter 2023, we look back at a few of BCI’s most pivotal moments in 2022. Check out BCI’s blog and magazine and follow BCI on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated on our bat conservation efforts.

Florida bonneted bat in gloved hand
Florida bonneted bat, Melquisedec Gamba-Rios

Miami Bat Lab wins prestigious conservation award

Miami Bat Lab, a collaboration between BCI and Zoo Miami, received the 2022 Florida Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (FAZA) Florida Nature Conservation Award. This award honors the Miami Bat Lab’s efforts to conserve Florida species and its field conservation work that benefits species in the state.

Established in 2019, Miami Bat Lab now involves more than 14 agencies and nonprofits working together to help save the federally Endangered Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus). Their cooperative outreach efforts have reached more than 12,000 local residents. Their research and applied conservation efforts have helped increase the population of Florida bonneted bats to over 170 protected individuals in the area, which is now the largest population in their distribution range.

Guinea 2022, Photo by Dr. Winifred Frick

Rediscovering a bat species not seen for 40 years and finding the first known maternity roost

The Hill’s horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hilli) had been missing for nearly 40 years until BCI and partners found a small population in Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park in 2019. In collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board, Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association, and African Parks, BCI announced the rediscovery of the species in early 2022 and published the findings in the Biodiversity Data Journal. In summer of 2022, BCI returned to Rwanda with an international team to search for the species’ critical habitats. The team succeeded in finding the first known maternity roost tree, a critical clue in the effort to protect the species’ habitat. The collaborative effort included BCI, Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association (RWCA), Maasai Mara University, and the Nyungwe Management Company (African Parks). Nyungwe Park Rangers continue to monitor Nyungwe forest for Hill’s horseshoe bats and the roost tree to learn more about the elusive and rare bat’s ecology and habitat needs.

Agave Restoration Initiative nears milestone of 100,000 agaves planted

Agaves, Photo by Bill Hatcher

To date, BCI and partners have planted more than 80,000 agaves across a binational corridor that includes parts of Mexico and the United States. This landscape-scale agave restoration project involves sites in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Sonora, Nuevo León, Coahuila, and Zacatecas, and these plants provide food for endangered pollinating bats while also preserving community livelihoods.

The Agave Restoration Initiative also involves eight pilot community business enterprises in Mexico that will provide sustainable economic benefits to communities while also providing vital food for nectar-feeding bats. BCI is also coordinating a northeast Mexico regional Agave Restoration Network that involves more than 40 government agencies, communities, universities, and nonprofits working together to support bats, agaves, and communities.

The agave initiative is also developing cutting-edge technology like environmental DNA (eDNA) and drone surveys to identify critical foraging sites for restoration and monitor the success of restoration efforts.

Dr. Luz A. de Wit, Photo by Rachel Harper

BCI adds exceptional new staff members to the team

In 2022, BCI expanded its team, bringing on board a number of incredibly talented and dedicated scientists and other staff members who will help us save bats in 2023 and beyond. Dr. Teague O’Mara became BCI’s Director of Conservation Evidence, Dr. Emily Almberg joined as Director of White-nose Syndrome Research, Dr. Luz A. de Wit was hired on as a BCI Research Scientist, and Dr. Ana Ibarra became BCI’s Strategic Advisor for Endangered Species. Check out BCI’s team bios.

BCI research leads to Endangered Species List protection

BCI’s research on the impacts of White-nose Syndrome to hibernating bat species directly contributed to the decision of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service determining the need to list the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act in November 2022. Tricolored bats (Perimyotis subflavus) were also proposed to be listed as Endangered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in fall of 2022, with a final determination expected in early 2023. The two species have both been decimated by White-nose Syndrome, and this additional protection is crucial to save these bats. BCI’s scientists were part of the analytic team for the Species Status Assessment in partnership with the North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat) that was used to inform the listing decisions.

Northern long-eared bat, J. Scott Altenbach
a tricolored bat in flight
tricolored bat, J. Scott Altenbach