Ecuador has long been known for its ecological riches: It is considered one of 17 countries in the world with “megadiversity” and is recognized as having the most biodiversity per square kilometer of any nation. And this wealth of endemic plants, birds, reptiles, butterflies as well as the renowned fauna of the Galapagos Islands routinely garner headlines. Until recently, though, Ecuador’s bats have received relatively little fanfare – despite the fact that with 173 species, the tiny country is home to more than 12 percent of the world’s known bat species.
This lack of attention on the country’s bats began to change in February 2015 when the Program for Bat Conservation in Ecuador (PCME), led by Santiago Burneo of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, and Ecuador’s Ministry of the Environment held the first Bat Specialists Workshop with the goal of producing a national action plan for bat conservation.
Chris Woodruff, BCI’s Global Conservation Program Manager, traveled to the workshop in Quito to reinforce the importance of the Ecuadorean government adopting the plan’s recommendations. Woodruff also emphasized the need for a collaborative approach, whereby all of the country’s conservation stakeholders, from researchers to local and international NGOs, recognize the value of bats and join together to implement conservation actions for the most critical habitats and species of concern.
Nineteen bat species are considered seriously threatened at the national level within Ecuador. At a global scale, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists three bats as endangered (Amorphochilus schnablii, Balantiopteryx infusca, and Platyrrhinus chocoensis), and an additional four species are listed as vulnerable. Eleven more are so poorly known that they are simply considered “data deficient.”
BCI congratulates the PCME and the Ministry of the Environment for taking the initiative to launch a national bat conservation action plan, which will be only the second such plan in all of South America. Furthermore, BCI is already taking proactive steps with our local partners to raise funds and begin on-the-ground conservation at priority sites and for priority species in the country.