Bat key to tequila trade gets off US endangered species list (Update)

April 17, 2018 by Susan Montoya Bryan

Wildlife managers in the American Southwest say a once-rare bat important to the pollination of plants used to produce tequila has made a comeback and is being removed from the U.S. endangered species list.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's announcement Tuesday made the lesser long-nosed bat, which ranges from Mexico to southern Arizona and New Mexico, the first bat ever removed from the nation's list of threatened and endangered species.

The decision comes a year after first being proposed and three years after Mexico delisted the animal, which depends on the nectar of agaves, cactuses and other flowering plants.

It has taken 30 years of conservation efforts by biologists and volunteers in both countries as well as tequila producers and agave growers in Mexico to rebuild a healthy population.

There were once thought to be fewer than 1,000 lesser long-nosed bats in 14 known roosts throughout the region. Now, there are about 200,000 of the nectar-feeding animals and dozens of roost sites.

With the population trending upward, regional officials with the Fish and Wildlife Service say the science shows threats to the bat have been eliminated or reduced to the point where they can consider the species recovered.

In Mexico, tequila producers who rely on agaves are integrating more harvest and cultivation practices in recognition of the bats being key pollinators. Some are marketing "bat-friendly tequila."

In southern Arizona, residents for a decade have monitored bats' nighttime use of hummingbird feeders. It provided biologists with a clearer understanding of migration timing and allowed for the opportunity to capture bats and affix radio transmitters that aided in finding roost sites.

Scientists and state wildlife managers describe the delisting as a conservation success that resulted from decades of work.

"The story of the lesser long-nosed bat shows that conservation and science can work together to provide species the chance to recover and persist," Winifred Frick, chief scientist at Bat Conservation International, said in a statement.

To ensure the bats continue to thrive, the Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing a monitoring plan that will focus on roosting sites and availability of forage.

Federal land managers in New Mexico and Arizona, including at the U.S. Army's Fort Huachuca, already are including forage plants such as agaves, saguaros and other cactuses in their resource management plans to help the species.

Limiting human access to caves with roost sites and abandoned mines in the U.S. also has benefited bat populations.

Recovery efforts have included education aimed at changing attitudes about bats and improving identification of different species. Historically, the lesser long-nosed bat was a victim of campaigns to control vampire bats over rabies concerns and their effects on livestock.

In reviewing the species, biologists considered the potential effects that climate change may have on the "nectar trail" that the bats follow as they migrate. They say the bat is flexible and adaptive enough to remain viable under changing conditions.

Explore further: Bat-friendly tequila, research play role in species recovery

Related Stories

Mexican gray wolf population grows by 1 animal, survey says

February 22, 2018

At least one more endangered Mexican gray wolf is roaming the American Southwest compared with a year earlier, and U.S. wildlife officials said Wednesday that lower survival rates among pups are primarily to blame for the ...

Green sea turtles recover in Florida, Mexico

March 20, 2015

Long considered an endangered species, green sea turtles in Florida and Mexico have bounced back and officials said Friday they are seeking to change the turtles' protected status to "threatened."

States argue in court for more say over endangered species

January 18, 2017

A battle over how to save endangered wolves in the Southwest moves to a federal appeals court Wednesday as judges hear arguments on whether states can block the federal government from reintroducing wildlife within their ...

Recommended for you

Fungus senses gravity using gene borrowed from bacteria

April 24, 2018

The pin mold fungus Phycomyces blakesleeanus forms a dense forest of vertically growing fruiting bodies, but how does it know which way is "up"? New research publishing 24 April in the open access journal PLOS Biology, from ...

Team discovers a new take on early evolution of photosynthesis

April 24, 2018

A team of scientists from Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences has begun re-thinking the evolutionary history of photochemical reaction centers (RCs). Their analysis was recently published online in Photosynthesis ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.