The lesser long-nosed bat, agave nectar and pollen lover, is the first species to officially recover from the imminent threat of extinction. On Wednesday, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced the bat species was no longer an endangered or threatened species.
The species was declared endangered in 1988. At that time there were were fewer than a thousand of its species between the U.S. and Mexico.
According to the National Geographic the lesser long-nosed bat is “one of the species’s major subpopulations migrates between the U.S. and Mexico. They mate and wait out the winter in southern and central Mexico, roosting together by the thousands to keep warm. In the spring, they migrate north to northern Mexico and southern Arizona, giving birth in many-female ‘maternity caves’.”
For years the species remained threatened due to the use of roosting caves by drug and human traffickers operating in the U.S.-Mexico border as well as recreational cavers. The lesser long-nosed bat was also threatened by campaigns in Mexico to control vampire bats populations that can transmit rabies.
After concerted efforts between the two countries the species has recovered its numbers; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that approximately 200,000 bats exist today in both Mexico and the U.S.
Among the measures implemented to help the species recover is the installation of “bat caves” to prevent humans from entering caves and abandoned mines used by the bats.
Tequila producers also contributed to their endangerment. They normally harvest the agave to make tequila before it flowers to ensure the plant keeps its sugars. However, bats can only feed from the flower. To help bat populations recover, a “bat-friendly” certification program was launched for tequila producers who allow some of its agave plants to flower.
This decision is mutually beneficial because these bats are agave’s natural pollinators.
In 2015 Mexico removed it from its endangered species list. Before that the species had made constant progress. In 2007 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended relabeling the species from endangered to threatened.