Campaign News 
 
Welcome to the fourth edition of the Year of the Bat Chat, the first one in 2012 and published by UNEP/CMS in English, French and Spanish. The second year of the campaign intends to reach further and build stronger anchors in other parts of the world, where bat conservation has partially been neglected due to lack of financial and human capacity. In 2012, CMS will use its extensive global network to build a sound foundation for bat conservation and outreach in future. 
 
New Regional Concept 
This year's editions will focus each on a particular region of the world and highlight the importance of bats for ecosystem services as well as the challenges they face. The fourth Year of the Bat Chat sheds light on the status of bats in the Americas. Three articles reflect different angles on bat awareness, reaching from North America down to the South continent. Learn how the image changes along their journey and across the many countries bats visit every year. 
Thanks to the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of Germany, we are proud to announce the launch of the new YOB poster in four languages. They are double-sided and combine English on the front with French, Spanish or German. The English image is also available as a postcard and can be ordered separately or together with 17 bat images as a set.  
 
 
The campaign welcomes five new partners from Germany (Heidelberg Cement), the U.S. (Northern California Bats and Happy Valley Bats), Peru (Programa de Conservación de Murciélagos de Perú (PCMP)) and UNESCO (UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development) and hope to reach out together to the general public in order to have a bigger impact on bat conservation. 
 
Easy Online Registration and More Attractive Event Search 
There is a great interest around the world to celebrate bats. In the first trimester alone, more than 120 shipments of the YOB information materials went out to events, educational programmes, festivals and promoters. In addition, a steady number of events registered through our new online registration. Shortly, they will be displayed in a more attractive and easily searchable way on our website. You will be able to filter by region, event type and date or find an event near you on the embedded map. This will hopefully generate increased participation in the events and the organizers can make use of our website to reach a bigger audience. 
 
A Personal Touch 
In order to further encourage others to help bats, please share your unique bat story with us. We would like to feature our readers' personal bat experience in the region we highlight, may it be an event you participated in, a rescued bat or a visit to bat caves. Please send no more than 100 words to yearofthebat@cms.int. The next region will be the Asian/Pacific one. We look forward to receiving your stories! 

Bats: Key Allies in Latin America 

One of the lesser known animals on the planet is possibly one of the most threatened: the bat. However, it is one of the most important for sustaining life- in ecosystems. Misconceptions about what bats are and what they are not have generated negative propaganda and the killings of bats, drastically reducing population sizes and bringing them to the brink of extinction. 
 
Bats might not be as charismatic as pandas, dolphins or primates, but are equally as important. During the Year of the Bat all the local and regional institutions are working on conveying the right message: bats - contrary to what some legends and myths state - are not blind, they are neither mice with wings, nor insects or birds. They are flying mammals; and as any other species bats may occasionally carry diseases, but the chances of coming across a sick bat in the wild are very slim. Bats certainly DO NOT get entangled in people’s hair (with their radar system they can detect any object and avoid collisions). 
Second only to rodents, bats belong to the most diverse orders of mammals with over 1,250 species recorded. And 176 are considered threatened according to IUCN. Despite popular beliefs, only a very few species feed in fact on blood (just 3 of more than 1200 species), the majority feeds on insects, fruit, nectar and a few eat small vertebrates. 
 
There are over 800 species of plants in Latin America dependent on frugivorous and nectarivorous bat species; and many of these plants are of economic importance to humans. Bats are key to the forestry sector as they help to pollinate plants like Ceibo, Balsa or Agave, from which tequila is extracted. An insectivorous bat eats between 600 and 1200 insects per night, killing disease-transmitting mosquitoes (yellow fever, dengue) or crop pests. In some regions, they can save farmers up to two million dollars in pesticide costs. And bats that feed on blood are providing enzymes in their saliva for the production of drugs such as anticoagulants and others for the treatment of heart diseases. 
 
Combining the efforts of 15 countries in the region, the Latin American Bat Conservation Network (RELCOM) was established in 2007. RELCOM has the vision that humans and bats can live in harmony and its core mission is to guarantee the continuance of healthy species and viable populations of bats in Latin America and the Caribbean and to ensure their importance is recognized and appreciated in all countries. Bats in the region are our key allies; they help maintain a healthy ecosystem and even assist with services to the economy as well as to human beings. It is our obligation to understand and protect them! 
 
More information can be found on the website of the Latin American Bat Conservation Network: http://www.relcomlatinoamerica.net/ 
 
 
Author: Dr. Luis F. Aguirre 
Researcher, Center for Biodiversity and Genetics, University of San Simon 
Coordinator of the Programme for the Conservation of Bats of Bolivia (PCMB) 
Coordinator of the Latin American Bat Conservation Network (RELCOM) 
 
Phyllonycteris © Carlos Mancini 

Celebrating Bats in Mexico 

 
Bats live in all continents and ecosystems of the world with exception of the poles. They feed on all kinds of food available in their ecosystems. Three out of four species feed on insects. As such, bats are the allies of humans because they control mosquitoes and other pests that affect agriculture. More than 30 million free-tailed bats live in the Border States of northern Mexico alone - each million destroying 10 tons of insects every night. 
 
Without these populations of bats, crops would suffer serious damage. Farmers in all of Mexico benefit from this biological control. If they were not consumed by bats, these insects would attack crop plants such as corn, cotton, beans, tomatoes, soy and chilli. In Campeche, a cave known as el Volcán (the volcano) harbours hundreds of thousands of insectivorous bats that emerge like lava from an eruption. 
 
Insecticides cannot be considered as a valuable substitute for bats, since insects become more resistant every time agrochemicals are used. In addition, these substances contaminate the environment and agricultural products and may even be harmful to our health. 
 
The role of bats is vital to maintain the health of ecosystems we depend on. Bats also provide direct benefits which improve the quality of our daily life. Research conducted by the Ambassador of the Year of the Bat, Rodrigo A. Medellín, Professor at the Institute of Ecology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and his team, has shown that bats promote the regeneration of forests in Mexico by dispersing seeds of pioneer plants that are responsible for initiating the recovery process of deforestation. 
Many fruits grown in Mexico such as sapote, sapodilla, guava and pitayas depend on bats for the dispersion of their seeds. The Columnar cactus, which is so typical of Mexican deserts, would vanish from its historical landscapes if bats were not pollinating the flowers thus ensuring its reproduction. Agaves are of great economic value in Mexico because they provide tequila, leaves for cooking, fibre for string and maguey worms, a variety of edible caterpillars that infest many maguey plants. Their flowers can only be accessed by bats at night, which feed on the nectar. By doing so, they cover themselves with pollen which they carry to other flowers. Other plants also depend on bats for pollination such as the Common coral tree and Sweet William. In a manner of speaking, bats perform the same role as humming birds or bees. 
Monophyllus vs Guira © Carlos Mancini 
Only three out of more than 1,200 bat species feed on blood. The so called vampire bats used to live in the American rainforests, depending on wildlife as a food source. With the destruction of rainforests that were turned into pastures for cattle, the bats’ only way to survive was to turn to livestock as their main food supply. 
Vampire bats © Marco Tschapka, Ulm University, PCMB Archive 
Despite all their obvious benefits, bats continue to have a bad reputation, which is not justified. Certain bat species are threatened with extinction due to destruction of their habitats and extermination by humans. The small Flat-Headed Myotis (Myotis planiceps) was believed to be extinct for decades. In 2004, the team of Rodigro Medellín discovered it in Coahuila and Nuevo Leon. A research programme to restore the populations aims to contribute the long-term recovery of the species. 
 
 
The team at UNAM has decided to contribute to public education concerning the vital role of bats in ecosystems and to raise awareness for their conservation needs. Among the numerous activities was the publishing of research results and facts about bats in the February edition of the magazine ¿cómo ves? by UNAM. This is a very popular magazine targeting a young audience between the ages of 15 and 25. 
 
A bat and pollinator week was held from 13 to 16 February at the premises of the School of Sciences at UNAM. It attracted around 50 visitors who actively participated in the event and around 500 who stopped by to read information about bats. The objective of the event was to raise awareness on the importance of bats and pollinators for our survival. Since it is the Year of the Bat, the UNAM team has put a focus on educating people about bats. The bat and pollinator week concentrated on three kinds of activities: 
Researchers held lectures on bats in biology and culture. 
In workshops students were encouraged to think about bats and pollinators while at the same time enjoying an unforgettable hands-on experience. 
Students used posters and exhibition panels to explain their scientific research on the biology of these animals to an interested audience. 
 
 
Extract from ¿cómo ves?, Dirección General de Divulgación de la Ciencia, UNAM 
http://www.comoves.unam.mx/ 
 
 

White-Nose Syndrome Threatens Decades Of North American Bat Conservation 

Hibernating bats in North America have never faced as grave a threat as White-nose Syndrome. For decades, conservationists have worked to protect bat colonies from disturbance, habitat destruction, vandalism and pollution. Critical hibernation and maternity caves have been gated to restrict human access; more dead trees are being retained in managed forests to provide summer roosts; farmers and homeowners are reducing pesticide use and putting up bat boxes to attract bats for natural insect control, and the benefits of bats are regularly discussed in schools across the continent. Efforts have begun to pay off as long-endangered Indiana and gray bat populations have recovered to the point that downlisting was being discussed. Bat conservation in North America was heading. in the right direction – until White-nose Syndrome (WNS) appeared in 2006. 

Image from http://www.fws.gov/whitenosesyndrome/images/WhiteNoseSyndrome07.jpg 
WNS is a devastating disease of hibernating bats, caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans, which has decimated bat populations through much of North America.  
The disease is named after the cold-loving white fungus that colonizes the skin of bats, erodes the epidermis and invades the underlying connective tissues.How the disease kills the bats is still unclear, but studies suggest that WNS may cause rapid depletion of fat reserves and also disrupt critical physiological functions during hibernation. In addition, infected bats often emerge too soon from hibernation and are often seen flying around in midwinter where they freeze or starve to death. The fungus is present in Europe, but without causing mass mortality. In North America, WNS has caused significant declines of at least six Vespertilionid bat species. One recent summary reports an overall decrease of 88 per cent among bats at 42 sites in a five-state region of the north-eastern United States. Modelling studies predict that such continuing losses would mean that once-common species, such as Myotis lucifugus, may face regional extinction in less than 20 years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that more than 5.5 million bats have already been killed by WNS. Even more frightening, over half of North America’s 47 bat species hibernate in caves and mines and are likely to be susceptible to this rapidly spreading and virulent disease. 
The agriculture industry, meanwhile, receives major economic benefits from insectivorous bats. A recent study concluded that bats save U.S. farmers more than US$3.7 billion per year in reduced insect damage and pesticide needs. Losing bat populations at the current staggering rate will almost certainly have both serious economic and ecological impacts across North America. Most of the species hit by WNS have slow reproductive rates, typically only one pup per year. These populations are not likely to recover to pre-WNS levels in our lifetime – if ever. We hope to slow the spread of this disease and help bats survive it by pursuing treatment and control options and by protecting existing colonies and habitats from additional threats. 
 
White-nose Syndrome is a major peril, but it is hardly the only conservation challenge facing bats around the world. I urge everyone to find and take at least one action to benefit bats this year. Let’s make Year of the Bat count for both North American bats facing WNS and other imperilled bats around the world. 
 
Updated WNS information and maps can be found at www.batcon.org 
Mylea Bayless, Director of Conservation Programs, Bat Conservation Internationa

Recommended Reading 

Celebrate bat conservation! 
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Get involved with Year of the Bat and help maintain our valuable eco-systems. 
 
We hope that you have enjoyed reading the Year of the Bat Chat and look forward to your personal bat story. Best wishes and until the next time, 
The Year of the Bat Team 
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