TUCSON, Ariz. - A once endangered species has now recovered.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the lesser long-nosed bat is making a comeback. The winged pollinator is responsible for helping make tequila. This is the first bat ever removed from the Endangered Species Act protections, because of recovery.
What is the lesser long-nosed bat?
The lesser long-nosed bat is a pollinator and seed disperser of the Sonoran Desert's saguaros and Mexico's tequila-producing agave. It also contributes to health soil and habitats, as well as providing sustainable economic benefits for communities in both the U.S. and Mexico.
Initially, the bats were put under the ESA in 1988. Back then, there were less than 1,000 of the species at 14 roosts. But today, there are about 200,000 bats at 75 roosts in the U.S. Southwest and Mexico.
This was all made possible through a three-decade partnership between local communities, conservation groups, agencies and Mexico, led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Service Southwest Regional Director is Amy Lueders. She says, "The Service is proud of our strong, decades-long partnerships with very diverse stakeholders on behalf of the lesser long-nosed bat. Without partnerships and collaborations such as these, successful recovery would not be possible."
The Assistant Director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department says, "any time we can properly recover a species so that it can be removed from the Threatened and Endangered Species List is a great day for wildlife conservation."
How did the lesser-nosed bat make a recovery?
In the U.S., most of the lesser long-nosed bat roost and forage areas are managed by federal agencies. Those agencies integrated management of the species into their land use and resource management plans. They also helped deter human disturbance of roost site caves and abandoned mines.
Stakeholders also designed and installed bat gates that allow bat access to roost sites, but eliminate human access.
Meanwhile, in Mexico, tequila producers integrated harvest and cultivation practices. They did this because agaves symbiotically rely on bats for pollination. They're even marketing "bat friendly tequila."
Mexico has an active education campaign to help change attitudes about the conservation of bats and to improve bat identification and appreciation.
To ensure the lesser long-nosed bat continues to thrive, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will release a draft Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan. The Service is committed to monitoring the species' continues roost occupancy, monitoring and assessing the bats' forage availability, together with conservation partners.
The delisting plan will be based on a scientific species status assessment that evaluates threats and assesses the bat's long-term viability. It also takes into consideration the potential changing climate effects on the species.