Tuesday, May 29, 2012

WNS Update from BCI - the news isn't good

Dear BCI Members and Friends, We’re sad to report that White-nose Syndrome, the devastating disease that has killed millions of North American bats, has been confirmed in the federally endangered gray bat – a species that figured prominently in the birth of Bat Conservation International 30 years ago. Biologists in Hawkins and Montgomery counties in Tennessee recently discovered several gray bats (also known as gray myotis) with the white fungus that causes WNS on their muzzles, wings and tail membranes. The fungus – but not the disease – was first reported on gray bats in 2010. Today, the disease itself was confirmed by laboratory tests. No WNS mortality was found, however. Biologists have no clear explanation for that, but they are holding their collective breath to see what develops. This news is especially heart-wrenching for us at BCI, since we’ve been working to recover this species for so many years, and we were on the very verge of succeeding until the advent of White-nose Syndrome in 2006. “We have been able to keep people out of gray bat roosts, but we have not been able to keep this disease at bay.” Gray bats are at extreme risk, since about 95 percent of the species entire population hibernates in just nine caves each winter. WNS has caused mortality rates approaching 100 percent at some hibernation sites of other bat species. Such losses at even a single gray bat hibernation cave could decimate the species. The story of the gray bat is in many ways the story of Bat Conservation International. BCI Founder Merlin Tuttle, began studying the species as a high school student in Tennessee in 1959. He was instrumental in having the species listed as endangered in 1979 and led BCI’s continuing effort to bring the gray bat back from the brink of extinction – primarily by protecting its hibernation caves from human disturances. And our efforts paid off. Before WNS, gray bats were doing so well they were considered for removal from the endangered list. Read more about Merlin’s fight for the gray bat. Now the fate of the gray bat is once again uncertain. WNS is yet another threat to the species, which is already so vulnerable. But there is hope. With your support, we will continue to fight for our bats. Warm Regards, Dave Waldien, Ph.D. Dave Waldien Interim Executive Director

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