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VOLUME 32, NO. 1 Spring 2014


News and Notes

Bat Conservation International welcomes new leaders

Bat Conservation International made a powerful start on 2014 as two seasoned conservation leaders filled key posts within the organization. Sue Sirkus of Tucson, Arizona, became BCI’s Director of Philanthropy and Joy Gaddy of Arlington, Virginia, is the new Director of Operations.

“Sue and Joy are outstanding conservationists and two of the most accomplished and well-regarded individuals in their respective fields,” said BCI Executive Director Andrew Walker. “Their leadership will be instrumental as BCI expands its work throughout Texas, the United States and beyond.”

Sirkus comes to BCI from The Nature Conservancy, where she was the Senior Philanthropy Officer for the Arizona Chapter. Among highlights of her 10-year tenure, Sirkus directed “Nature Matters,” the largest-ever conservation campaign in Arizona, and secured $40 million for local, national and international programs. As a certified fundraising professional with impressive results, Sirkus will be a critical part of BCI’s commitment to expand its leadership role in global bat conservation. 

“The donors, members, board and staff of Bat Conservation International have been a powerful force in conserving the environment for over 30 years. I am privileged to have the chance to join with them in sustaining 1,300 bat species around the world,” Sirkus said. “I am inspired by creativity and nature. I do what I can to cultivate one and to protect the other.”

Gaddy was Senior Vice President of Global Operations at Conservation International, where she managed an operations staff of 50 and a budget of $10 million. She specializes in aligning operational functions with organizational goals. As Director of Operations, she will oversee all of BCI’s administrative, human resources and finance activities. Gaddy’s experience managing staff and resources on a global scale will be invaluable as BCI continues to broaden the scope of its conservation efforts.

“As a lifelong conservationist and someone interested in building and developing organizations, I jumped at the opportunity to join Bat Conservation International,” Gaddy said. “I am thrilled to be working with such a wonderful group of people to protect such an important order of mammals.”

 

A powerful voice for flying foxes

On September 7, 2012 (“Threatened Species Day” in Australia), the Queensland state government reinstated fruit-growers’ rights to legally kill four species of flying foxes.

Australian conservationists have been working ever since to reverse that decision – with little success. Now they have a powerful ally. In January, Dr. Jane Goodall, renowned worldwide for her chimpanzee research and her wildlife-conservation efforts, sent the following letter of support, which was reported by the group Don’t Shoot Bats:

January 2014
To Whom it May Concern,
It deeply saddens me to hear that “Threatened Species Day” 2012 was marked by the decision by the Queensland Government to sanction the killing of flying foxes – including two ­threatened species, spectacled and grey-headed flying foxes.
Flying foxes are a keystone species…vital to our environment. The survival of the Australian native trees and the animals that inhabit them depends on humans being able to co-exist with flying foxes.
Flying foxes are suffering ongoing loss of habitat from urban and agricultural expansion, camp destruction and dispersals. Due to the recent heat wave in South Queensland, tens of thousands of flying foxes perished. The Queensland Government is ­continuing with their plan for lethal dispersal ignoring scientific concerns that there is no consideration for this recent decline of their numbers.
Education by the State Government is extremely important. The species is maligned by cultural myths that generate an unfounded fear, which should be countered with factual information of what risks exist and their simple prevention. ...
We need to move to a much greater appreciation of these animals and the vital ecological role they play. They are highly intelligent, social animals. A truly fascinating species as is proven by their popularity with tourists.
Yours sincerely,
Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE
Founder – the Jane Goodall Institute
& UN Messenger of Peace

You can help Jane Goodall and Australian conservationists as they work to reverse this cruel decision. Make your voice heard by contacting Andrew Powell, Queensland's Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection. Addresses and a sample letter are available at: www.batcon.org/writeflyingfoxes

 

Teaching bat research in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is a nation where few people know any real facts about bats and their benefits and most hate and fear the flying mammals in their midst. But Nurul Islam and a handful of colleagues at the Group for Conservation & Research of Bats (GCRB) are committed to change that. The team conducted the country’s first bat research and conservation workshop in January 2014 and trained 25 science students for the study of bats.

Sponsored by BCI’s Global Grassroots Conservation Fund and the Chester Zoo of the United Kingdom, the intensive three-day session was held at Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, where Islam is a student. Neil Furey, a leading bat biologist with Flora and Fauna International, was the lead instructor. Donations and support were also provided by a range of multinational groups.

The workshop educated the students in basic bat biology and bats’ ecological benefits, and provided hands-on training in such field-research methods as mist netting, species identification and bat detectors. “It was really an amazing experience to learn these relatively new concepts (new for us) about bats,” Rahul Talukdar said after the workshop. “I especially liked the population monitoring and emergence counts of the fruit bats, and I was pleased with our exposure to real field conditions.”

After the session, all 25 participants reported an interest in working with bats in the future.

 

What’s a bat worth to a walnut orchard?
by Rachael Long, Mylea M. Bayless, Tom Unruh & Kate Ingram

Ninety-nine percent of walnuts produced in the United States are grown on 245,000 acres (99,000 hectares) in California. That crop is valued at $1.3 billion annually and, with a growing demand for walnuts, new orchards are being planted every year.

Expanding production means more intensive farming practices to manage costly crop pests. For walnuts, the key pest is the codling moth, whose larva feeds on developing nuts. The adult moths begin to fly and lay eggs on the nutlets in April and there are usually four generations per year.

Current pest-control practices typically include insecticides, which are often sprayed once in the spring and again during summer. Organic growers use pheromones, a mating-disruption technology that prevents males from finding females. Although generally effective, pesticides are expensive (about $160/acre [$395/hectare] per year), and they can have harmful impacts on humans and ecosystems.

Bats, meanwhile, are voracious predators of night-flying insects, including many crop pests. Bats’ value for agricultural pest control nationwide has been estimated at about $23 billion per year, but few data exist on the benefits of bats for individual crops. Our project, funded by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency STAR (Science to Achieve Results) grant to the University of California at Davis, was designed to assess the value of pest-control impact by bats on walnut production in California’s Central Valley.

Bats clearly forage in walnut crops, and their activity doubles where colonies roost in bat houses (especially in old barns) in the orchards. The Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) is the most abundant species, followed by the Yuma and California myotis (Myotis yumanensis and M. californicus).

In an effort to quantify the economic impact of bats’ consumption of codling moths, we captured 36 Mexican free-tailed bats over three nights in an 80-acre (30-hectare) walnut orchard in Yolo County, California. A colony of some 3,000 bats lives in bat houses in an abandoned shop on the property.

We opened our mist nets from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., to correspond with codling moth flights and bat activity. The bats, captured as they returned to the roost after feeding, were placed individually in sterile containers and kept until they defecated. The fecal pellets were quickly frozen and sent to a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab, where they were genetically tested for the presence of codling moths.

Our preliminary data suggest that 5 percent of these bats – about 150 bats from this colony of 3,000 – consumed at least one codling moth per night. We assume that the codling moth has 30 nights per generation and four generations per year, with each female moth (half the total) laying 36 viable eggs on individual nuts.

Thus, for a typical 80-acre walnut orchard producing 280 tons of walnuts per year, we estimate that bats can protect 2 percent of the crop yield, or $17,280 worth of walnuts per season at the current $1.60 per pound. That’s a value of $6 per bat.

And this probably underestimates the value, since about 40 percent of each bat’s diet consists of moths – an average of about 15 moths per night.

We are working now to refine our economic data and determine whether these insect-hunting bats help reduce pesticide use in walnut orchards. Documenting the economic benefits of bats will encourage farmers to protect and enhance bat activity on their farms.

RACHAEL LONG is with the University of California Cooperative Extension; MYLEA BAYLESS with Bat Conservation International; TOM UNRUH with USDA Agricultural Research Service; and KATHERINE INGRAM with the University of California at Davis.

 

A book that’s saving bats around the world

It lacks a catchy title, but Ecological and Behavioral Methods for the Study of Bats is one of the most important books ever published for bat scientists, educators and conservationists. Edited by Thomas H. Kunz and Stuart Parsons, it is known around the world as “the Kunz and Parsons book,” and it is widely considered the premier guide for bat research. Unfortunately, however, the $105 price means this vital resource is rarely available where bat conservation is needed most.

“The kind of reliable and detailed knowledge that scientists take for granted in the industrialized world can be impossibly rare and expensive elsewhere, especially in remote regions with limited access to technology,” said Dave Waldien, BCI’s Director of Global Programs.

Bat Conservation International, as part of its commitment to nurturing science-based bat conservation around the world, decided in November 2012 to get this invaluable text into the hands of researchers around the world. Publisher Johns Hopkins University Press offered BCI a 50 percent discount, and we asked our members and friends for help.

You responded immediately and generously. A little over a year later, BCI has distributed more than 200 copies of the Kunz and Parsons book without charge to conservation scientists in more than 50 countries of Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia and elsewhere, and our distribution continues into Eastern Europe and South Asia.

“The book is very useful for me and my students, not only by exposing us to standard methods of studying bats, but also the theoretical concepts underlying such a study and those of understanding the ecology of bats in general,” says Dr. Paul Webala of Karatina University College in Kenya.

Adds Biologist Fernando Simal of the Caribbean island of Bonaire: “These books are a great reference to have in-house, but they also are an inspiration considering the authors and, because they were a gift from BCI, it is a reminder that there are many great people out there willing to help and support you in your bat-conservation and -research efforts.”

This is a book that already is having a real impact on global bat conservation – and you helped make it happen.

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All articles in this issue:
Automated Acoustic Identification
Studying Bats & Cultivating Conservation on Aruba
Bat Stamps Around the World
The Memo
News and Notes
Watching the Dark
The Wish List

Unless otherwise noted, all images are copyright ©Merlin D. Tuttle and/or ©Bat Conservation International