Volume 34
Issue 1

Latin America – supporting ‘los murciélagos’

BCI was a principal underwriter of the 1st Latin American Bat Congress, sponsored by the Latin American Bat Conservation Network (RELCOM), held Aug. 6–9 in Quito, Ecuador. Two hundred bat experts from 20-plus Latin American countries presented their latest research.

BCI is working with some of these scientists on conservation of priority species, identifying significant bat habitats requiring protection in the process. BCI also is identifying and negotiating access to existing bat data to better inform our conservation planning and to build a comprehensive global database on bats that all scientists, governments and conservation organizations can use. This event demonstrated the growing partnership between BCI and RELCOM.

For more updates on BCI’s onging conservation efforts in Latin America, visit batcon.org/latinamerica.

New Disk Release

Discovery suggests greater species diversity in region

Thyroptera wynneae is a new species of the so-called “Disk-winged bat” described from Peru in 2014 by an international team lead by Paul Velazco of the American Museum of Natural History. Disk-winged bats have adhesive disks on their thumbs and feet that they use to adhere to the smooth surfaces of leaves on which they roost.

Never before seen by scientists, the first specimens of Thyroptera wynneae were captured in 2012. Interestingly, this new species was discovered in an area already known to be home to two other species of Disk-winged bats, suggesting that local diversity of the these tiny, specialized insectivores may be higher than previously suspected. So-called “Diskwinged” species of bats use small, sticky suction cups, like this one on the wrist of the newly discovered Thyroptera wynneae species, to help them adhere to smooth surfaces.

Reflections on the annual WNS workshop

Once a year, scientists, conservationists, students and other stakeholders convene for four, around-the-clock days to disseminate and discuss new developments on white-nose syndrome (WNS).

The most recent meeting was alternately sobering and hopeful. New research suggests the northern long-eared bat, the little brown bat and the tri-colored bat are particularly susceptible to developing high fungal loads, leading to high fatality. Population models indicate that without some increase in survivorship and/or reproductive success, such hard-hit species may continue to decline, even without further WNS fatalities.

Some news was more hopeful. BCI-supported research on controlling the WNS fungus using an anti-fungal compound derived from a common soil bacterium passed another big milestone when the compound was demonstrated to be non-toxic to live bats and increased the survival of treated bats in the lab. Other scientists reported on their own biological control research using probiotics and other bacteria. All of us that work on WNS hope to find several tools to combat the fungus and disease.

There is still so much research that is needed, but we are a persistent group of biologists. The annual meeting arms us not only with new information and techniques, but also with the courage and optimism we need continue in this fight for another year.

—Katie Gillies, BCI Director of Imperiled Species.

Bats in the Band

Author Brian Lies and his cast of bats strike a chord with readers

Reviewed by Dianne Odegard, BCI Education and Public Outreach Manager.

Brian Lies has done it again. He has sent his adorable bats to the beach, to the library and to a ball game—and gathered more fans (adults and children) on every excursion.

Where else can they go? Wherever they want to, so why not Priscilla Beach Theatre in Manomet, Massachusetts, for some tunes, courtesy of the bats themselves? That’s the setting and story of Lies’ latest book, Bats In the Band.

Mr. Lies’ previous books have won a number of awards and been recognized as New York Times Bestsellers, and it’s easy to see why. He is a gifted painter, and his illustrations are loaded with details that make it fun for kids and grown-ups to find new visual treats on subsequent viewings. For instance, I was completely charmed by his use of music posters, reminiscent of classic ’70s rock bills, with re-imagined band names, like Beastie Bats and Bat Company. Lies also includes a few fun puns—“It ain’t over till the bat lady sings”—while making it all rhyme.

The author does a real service to his subjects, making the bats completely relatable to the children reading his stories. From the one little bat who has apparently refused to remove his water wings from his “Bats at the Beach” days to the many affectionate mother bats, Lies’ bat characters are both among us and separate from us—but somehow also just like us.

It’s a lovely introduction to bats for very young children and may go a long way toward shaping their attitudes (or, to stick with the book’s theme, toward changing their tune) about bats before being exposed, as they grow older, to the often-negative myths that still surround bats.

Mr. Lies clearly loves bats and is a supporter of bat conservation (full disclosure: He donates a portion of his books’ proceeds to Bat Conservation International). And though I wish his bats were a little less rodent-like, their faces are adorable, and he does a beautiful job on their wings, making them even more magical than in real life. After all, these bat wings are holding and playing musical instruments!

Bottom line: This review, BCI and Bats wholeheartedly recommend Bats in the Band.

The Persistence of Youth

by Dave Waldien, BCI Senior Director of Global Conservation

This is one of my most memorable moments at BCI. We had arranged for cavers from the Davao Speleological and Conservation Society and bat biologists to join our efforts on Samal Island, Philippines to locate caves with significant colonies of bats. We spread out over the island in small teams to talk with communities and farmers to track down cave leads and, if possible, to conduct a rapid assessment of the cave. After a long ride with three of us on a small motorcycle, we located a farmer who had a bat cave on his property.

I listened closely and intently watched as Rai Gomez, my colleague, a bat biologist, and our guide and interpreter, gathered information from the farmer on the bats found in the cave. It was quite interesting to watch the very animated discussion, especially as this very young lady followed her father around and around trying to see the photos of the bats we were using in our discussions. She was very persistent and finally succeeded in getting her father to stop long enough for her to share and appreciate the bats!