It's sad but true that the number of endangered bats is increasing around the globe. Found on every continent, apart from Antarctica, bats have successfully adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions. Sadly, current threats, often due to human activities of one kind or the other, are proving to be overwhelming for some species.
The term endangered is meant in a very specific sense and is one of the levels of conservation status used by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This organisation publishes a red list with details of 1000s of plant and animal species from all over the world.
In this context, endangered can mean a number of things including a 50% (or more) decrease in a species' population. This is what has happened to the Golden Capped Fruit bat (Acerodon jubatus) over the last 30 years, which is found only in the Philippines. Loss of roosting and foraging areas through deforestation and as well as hunting are the main culprits.
Turning our attention to Africa, a bat with a cute name is also under threat. Called the Tanzanian woolly bat (Kerivoula africana), this species' status was last assessed in 2008. It's present in fewer than 5 places and the population lives in an area less than 500 km2 in size.
The main threats are habitat loss caused by deforestation of Tanzania's tropical coastal forest.
The long-nosed Mexican bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) takes us to North and Central America, where it is found in Mexico, Guatemala and the United States. Like the Golden Capped Fruit bat, this species has also suffered a 50% (or more) drop in its population size. Scarily enough, this has happened over a very short period of 10 years.
This species eats pollen and nectar but loss of food sources, for example, when land is converted to agricultural use has been part of the reason for their rapid decline.
Agriculture is also implicated in the shrinking Madeira pipistrelle (Pipistrellus maderensis) population found in the European islands of the Canaries and Madeira. Pesticide use kills the prey of these insect-eating bats and can also be directly toxic.
And so we come to South America, and sure enough, there are endangered bat species here too. One of them is the Ecuadorian sac-winged bat (Balantiopteryx infusca). Why sac-winged? It's not because their wings are shaped like sacks (in case you were wondering) but because of the shape of the glands they have in their wings.
These bats reside in Colombia and Ecuador and one of the main threats to their survival is the loss of their rainforest habitat through activities like logging.
And now to Australia, the "land down under", to a bit of mystery.
A critically endangered bat with an aristocratic name is reported to live on an island off the coast of New South Wales...or does it?
The only evidence of its existence is a skull that was found all the way back in 1972! Lord Howe's Long Eared bat (Nyctophilus howensis) is also classified as possibly extinct (it takes 50 years of no sightings for a species to be officially declared extinct). The reason for its disappearance isn't known for sure but it could be that the island's owls and rats might have found them too tasty to resist.
Lord Howe islanders keep saying they see 2 bats of different sizes at sun down. At the moment, only one other bat species is known to inhabit this area. So could it be that Lord Howe's Long-eared bat is still around, albeit critically endangered?
Perhaps one day, the mystery will be solved....