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Happy International Bat Appreciation Day! Why on Earth Would We Celebrate Bats?

April 17 is International Bat Appreciation Day, a day reminding us to show love to our flying friends who play a key role in ecosystems all over the world.

Elias Marat

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International Bat Appreciation Day
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Happy International Bat Appreciation Day!

(TMU) — Today, April 17th, is celebrated as International Bat Appreciation Day—a day meant to remind us to show love to our flying pollinator friends who play a critical role in environments and ecosystems all over the world.

Bats are the common name for roughly 1,400 species that have been discovered, and these fabulous creatures make up about 20 percent of mammal species after rodents. An estimated 48 bat species live in the United States, and three states—Texas, Oklahoma, and Virginia—have their own official state bats. What makes bats unique among mammals is their ability to fly naturally and in a sustained manner.

In general, bats are a very misunderstood creature. No doubt, we can understand if a bat flying in the middle of the night gives some people the creeps—their depiction in pop culture associates them with spooky things like Dracula, the blood-sucking vampire.

But as various scientific studies show, most bats eat a wide variety of insects, balancing the population of such creepy-crawlers and nuisance bugs like locusts, flies, scorpions, moths, centipedes, and mosquitos.

Other bat species are frugivores and enjoy such fruits as figs, mangoes, bananas, and dates, as well as seeds and the pollen of flowers. And yes, three types of vampire bats do exist in Central and South America, but humans have no reason to fear them.

Most bats are nocturnal creatures that come out at night, with many using their extreme sense of hearing and ability to see in the dark to get around. A large variety of bats use a trick called echolocation that relies on sonar to navigate, avoid obstacles, and find food—not unlike dolphins. However, some bats in Southeast Asia fly and hunt their meals during the daytime.

And while bees and butterflies often get the lion’s share of credit for their role as pollinators, bats are no less important to providing us with a crucial link in our food supply. As the Bat Conservation Trust explains, some 500 plant species rely on bats to pollinate their flowers. This includes various species of banana, mango, guava, durian, and agave—the succulent, pollen-rich plant that provides us with tequila. Many of these plants actually co-evolved with bats over the course of millennia.

Before reading the above information, some of you may have asked: why would we be celebrating these god-forsaken creatures when they were the source of the coronavirus that causes CoViD-19? Aren’t they the reason that we’re being quarantined indoors, jobless and bored, and now we’re supposed to celebrate them?

Well, as Deutsche Welle aptly put it: a bat didn’t “cause” the coronavirus pandemic. We did. More specifically, it was likely the fault of the rampant, illegal trafficking of wild animals.

While some bats have been shown to carry a number of infections deadly to humans—including Ebola, rabies, and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), among others—the vast majority of bats aren’t infected. There also isn’t any solid scientific proof that CoViD-19 took flight from bats yet, although there is plenty of conjecture and speculation. Some believe that pangolins may have acted as an intermediary for the novel coronavirus. Either way, bats that do carry coronaviruses pose zero threat to humans provided they are left undisturbed in the wild.

Sadly, a combination of misinformation, long-standing ignorance, and mass hysteria over the coronavirus led to villagers in Peru attacking our winged friends last month and killing hundreds of the creatures.

The problem led to Peru’s National Service of Wild Forests and Fauna (SERFOR) reminding locals that “bats are not our enemies,” and explaining that “70 percent of the [bat] species in the world feed off insects, many of which are harmful to agriculture and our health, like mosquitoes that spread dengue and other diseases.”

So with that in mind, let’s remember that bats are nothing to be scared of. Indeed, we hope that we’ve provided our readers with plenty of good reasons to not only appreciate bats, but to cherish and protect these good friends to our species. When it comes to bats, the facts make clear that to know them is to love them.

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

Animals

Idaho Senate Approves Bill to Kill 90 Percent of State’s Wolves in “Brutal War”

Elias Marat

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Idaho’s legislature is swiftly moving forward with a bill that critics say would sanction a “brutal war” on wolves whereby up to 90 percent of the current wolf population would be killed in a bid to protect the interests of the state’s ranchers.

On Wednesday, the Idaho senate passed the measure by a 26-7 vote. The bill will now move forward to the House chamber, reports Associated Press.

Since teetering at the brink of endangerment years ago, wolf populations were removed from the state endangered species list in 2011. Since then, they have thrived despite Idaho allowing hundreds to be killed by hunters, trappers and state measures to control their numbers. Over the past two years, the wolf population has held steady at about 1,500.

According to federal guidelines, wolf recovery numbers require about 150 wolves in the state.

Republican supporters of the bill said during senate debates that the wolf population has grown entirely out of control, endangering the numbers of deer and elk available to hunters and harming the state economy.

“We’re supposed to have 15 packs, 150 wolves. We’re up to 1,553, was the last count, 1,556, something like that. They’re destroying ranchers. They’re destroying wildlife. This is a needed bill,” said Republican state Sen. Mark Harris. 

However, critics have blasted the move as rash and potentially damaging to the state’s wildlife.

The Idaho Senate’s sudden move to pass this bill in the eleventh hour incentivizes the cruel deaths of more than 1,000 wolves across the state,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. 

“This brutal war on wolves must be stopped, and we urge the House to deny this bill,” Zaccardi added.

Maggie Howell, the head of the Wolf Conservation Center, also described the move as the latest in a hostile and extreme campaign against wolves that fails to take into account the creatures’ value to the local ecology.

“Beyond the wanton cruelty and devastation the passage of this bill would bring to wolves, this legislation poses a threat to wolves nationwide,” she told the New York Times. “With the Trump administration’s decision to transfer wolf management authority from the federal government to the states, Idaho’s policies can influence expectations about wildlife management beyond its borders.”

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Animals

As Marine Life Flees the Equator, Global Mass Extinction is Imminent: Scientists

Elias Marat

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The waters surrounding the equator are one of the most biodiverse areas in the globe, with the tropical area rich in marine life including rare sea turtles, whale sharks, manta rays, and other creatures.

However, rampant rises in temperate have led to a mass exodus of marine species from the sensitive region – with grave implications for life on earth.

While ecologists have long seen the thriving biodiversity of equatorial species holding constant in the past few centuries, a new study by Australian researchers published in The Conversation has found that warming global temperatures are now hitting the equator hard, potentially leading to an unprecedented mass extinction event.

The researchers from the Universities of Auckland, Queensland, and the Sunshine Coast found that as waters surrounding the equator continue to heat up, the ecosystem is being disrupted and forcing species to flee toward the cooler water of the South and North Pole.

The massive changes in marine ecosystems that this entails will have a grave impact not only on ocean life – essentially becoming invasive species in their new homes –  but also on the human livelihoods that depend on it.

“When the same thing happened 252 million years ago, 90 percent of all marine species died,” the researchers wrote.

To see where marine life is headed, the researchers tracked the distribution of about 49,000 different species to see what their trajectory was. The global distribution of ocean life typically resembles a bell curve, with far fewer species near the poles and more near the equator.

However, the vast alteration of the curve is already in motion as creatures flee to the poles, according to a study they published in the journal PNAS.

These changes augur major disruptions to global ecosystem as marine life scrambles in a chaotic fight for food, space, and resources – with a mass die-off and extinction of creatures likely resulting.

The research underscores the dire need for human societies to control rampant climate change before the biodiversity and ecological health of the planet is pushed past the point of no return.

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Animals

Rare Creature Photographed Alive In The Wild For The First Time Ever

Elias Marat

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Advances in the methods used by researchers to watch wildlife have allowed for the photographing of a rare creature whose image had never been captured in the wild before.

Researchers in the West African nation of Togo were able to spot the rare Walter’s duiker, a rare species of petite African antelope, for the first time in the wild thanks to camera traps equipped with motion sensors.

In addition to the Walter’s duiker, the camera traps were also able to discover rare species of aardvarks and a mongoose, reports Gizmodo.

At a time when the extinction of entire species is becoming more common worldwide, such devices should help conservationists not only preserve creatures sought by bushmeat hunters but also spot rare animals whose presence is elusive for human observers. In the past, biologists were forced to rely on the same hunters for information.

“Camera traps are a game changer when it comes to biodiversity survey fieldwork,” said University of Oxford wildlife biologist Neil D’Cruze.

“I’ve spent weeks roughing it in tropical forests seemingly devoid of any large mammal species,” D’Cruze continued. “Yet when you fire up the laptop and stick in the memory card from camera traps that have been sitting there patiently during the entire trip—and see species that were there with you the entire time —it’s like being given a glimpse into a parallel world.”

The Walter’s duiker was discovered in 2010 when specimens of bushmeat were compared to other duiker specimens. The new images of the creature are the first to have been seen.

Rare species like Walter’s duiker are often not listed as “endangered” by groups like the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to a lack of data.

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