This is a list no species should be on.
Today, in the release of a new report on plants and wildlife imperiled by climate change, the Endangered Species Coalition (ESC) and their partners called out the Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) and nine other species severely impacted by climate change and human behavior.
The coalition, comprised of hundreds of conservation and wildlife organizations, publishes the report each year to draw attention to “human-caused extinction of our nation’s at-risk species,
to protect and restore their habitats, and to guide these fragile populations along the road to recovery.” Bat Conservation International (BCI) is a member of the coalition.
In addition to the Mexican long-nosed bat, the report includes monarch butterflies, a small deer that swims through the ocean in search of fresh drinking water, a bird found only on the slopes of a single mountain, and five other imperiled species.
In the Southwest United States and Mexico, the Mexican long-nosed bat is, in part, endangered because migratory corridors of blooming agave have been lost to climate change and the impacts of encroaching human development. Fewer than 5,000 Mexican long-nosed bats remain.
In 1996, the bat was declared endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and added to the Red List, a global (and alarmingly growing) list of species of varying potential for extinction.
Mexican long-nosed bats are vital migratory pollinators and nectar feeders whose survival is dependent on wild agaves. Every year, pregnant females leave their winter – and only known mating roost – in Central Mexico and migrate hundreds of miles along a ‘nectar corridor’, ranging as far north as Texas and New Mexico in the United States.
As the bats move from flower to flower, their faces get covered with pollen, making them extremely effective pollinators of agave plants. Without flowering agaves, the nectar-dependent bats cannot survive. Without these bats pollinating the agaves, the resiliency and long-term health of agaves in the landscape cannot be maintained.
BCI’s Agave Restoration Initiative is an ambitious and multi-faceted program intended to help restore numbers of Mexican long-nosed bats in much the same way populations of the Lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae) have been recovered. When the Lesser long-nosed bat was added to the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1988, the population estimate for this species was 1,000 individuals. In 2018, when the Lesser long-nosed bat was removed from the endangered list the population size was estimated at 200,000 individuals.
Dr. Kristen Lear, BCI’s Endangered Species Interventions Specialist, and her team meet with community groups in the Southwest United States and Mexico, engage nurseries and greenhouses to grow native agave plants, and do the hard physical work of planting thousands of these plants. “The urgency of maintaining agave corridors cannot be overstated, especially as we address the impacts of climate change and the loss of biodiversity” says Lear. “We’re racing against time to keep these corridors intact. Because saving landscapes, roosts, and habitats is essential to saving bats.”