Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 68 – The Mexican Long-nosed Bat

Mexican long-nosed bat “Each species on our planet plays a role in the healthy functioning of natural ecosystems, on which humans depend”
William H. Schlesinger

The feeding habits of the Mexican long-nosed bat are directly related to its decline. They are nocturnal nectar feeders and pollinators who favour desert plants such as agave, saguaro, cardon and organ pipe.  A long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship exists between the plants and the long-nosed bats.

Agaves are being harvested for the production of tequila and other alcohol related beverages.  The plants are harvested in such a way, they are incapable of regenerating. Once lost, there will be no plants for the long-nosed bats to pollinate, and, naturally, no pollen dispersed and the plants will cease to spread.

This dependence on bats is known as chiropterophily.  Should the bats then be lost through insufficient food, the whole ecosystem of the desert would be compromised and may eventually be lost altogether.

The Mexican long-nosed bat grows up to almost four inches and weighs a mere one ounce.  It has wing span of fourteen inches and can fly up to fourteen miles per hour.  It has pale-brown to grey fur with black wings, and has a long muzzle with a prominent triangular-shaped nose leaf at the tip.  It can live up to twenty years.

When the spring comes and it is time to birth pups, the bats migrate to the Sonoran Desert region.  Only one pup will be born to each mother, but thousands of pups will occupy the same cave.  This creates a care-sharing system allowing some mothers to leave the cave to feed whilst others stay and ‘babysit’.  The pups nurse for about four to five weeks, after which they are ready to fly.

During the day, they roost in caves and mines, away from the heat of the sun.   At night, they can be located near pine-oak and deciduous forest and any desert scrubland which offers a variety of plants and cacti.
They can be found all the year round in Mexico.  During the summer months, they can also be seen in the United States.
What they eat
Nectar and pollen from night-blooming desert plants.  These include saguaro, cardon and organ pipe, and several species of wild agave.
Human disturbance (the  long-nosed bat roosts in large colonies, so the disruption of one habitat can affect thousands of individuals at the same time),  land clearance for agriculture and extensive harvesting of wild agaves for alcohol production.  In Mexico, long-nosed bats are often associated with the problems of vampire bats, and wrongly thought to be a predatory species as opposed to a beneficial species.   As a result, they are killed by the farmers who come across them.
Status: Endangered
The Mexican long-nosed bat  (Leptonycteris nivalis)  is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Endangered.  It was listed as endangered in 1988 by the  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The States of Texas and New Mexico listed this species as endangered in 1988 and 1990, respectively.  Mexico listed the long-nosed bat as endangered in 1991 under the Mexican Endangered Species Act.
Due to the migratory nature of the Mexican long-nosed bat, and the fact they are so rare, it has been difficult to estimate numbers.  But, the general consensus is; the population is declining rapidly.

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 67 – The California Condor

California condors from mother nature network

“There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is”
Isaac Bashevis Singer

Native American tribes see the condor as a symbol of power.  Known to them as the Thunderbird, they believe it creates thunder in the sky by beating its enormous ten foot wings.

In flight, the majestic wings can be seen in all their splendour.  When airborne, the distinctive white patch underneath each wing is highly visible, distinguishing it from other vultures.  These great birds soar as high as fifteen thousand feet across the skies, catching thermals on the way up, rising as the ground below gets hotter.  They can stay up for hours watching, searching for food and other needs.

California condors are vultures.  Like all vultures, they are carrion feeders, not predators. As such, they are a very important part of the ecosystem, acting as  ‘nature’s cleaners’ by recycling dead organic waste.  They pick up all sorts of animal debris that would otherwise be left to rot where it fell.  They come equipped with a very tough immune system which protects then against any harmful bacteria found on decaying animals. They have incredibly keen eyesight, but a poor sense of smell, which is perhaps quite fortunate considering their feeding habits.  Their baldness is one of their many assets.  It allows them to bury into the carcasses they feed on without too much mess.  Meal over, they clean their heads and necks by rubbing them on grass or against rocks or branches.

Condors can travel up to one hundred and fifty miles a day, with a maximum flight speed of fifty-five mph.  These magnificent birds have a wing span of just under ten feet.  Their feathers are essentially black with white patches under the wings.  Their bald heads are white to reddish-purple.  They can reach a height of fifty inches, weigh up to twenty-five pounds and can live up to as much as eighty years, although sixty is more common.

The mating season for the California condor is winter to spring, followed by an incubation period of about fifty-four days.  One chick will hatch, which will receive the parents full attention.  The chick will learn to fly at the age of six months, but may stay with its parents for the next two years.  It will not gain full adult plumage until five or six years of age.

Rocky, forested regions permeated with caves, gorges and ledges for nesting.  Open grassland for hunting.
By reintroduction:  Mexico and the United States of America
What they eat
Carrion:  Condors will tuck into most carcasses they find, but prefer the larger ones, such as deer, cattle and sheep.
Lead poisoning, habitat loss, illegal shootings and human intolerance.
Status: Critically Endangered
The California condor is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Critically Endangered.  It is also under the protection of  CITES Appendix I

By 1982, only twenty-two individuals existed.   The species became extinct in the wild in 1987, when the last free-flying condors were taken into captivity to save the species via a breeding program.  At this point, only nine birds remained on the planet.  The captive breeding program was successful, and, in 1991, action was taken to start releasing the birds back into the wild.  By the spring of 2013, there were over four hundred and thirty California condors in existence, either in captivity or free-flying.
The problem of lead poisoning from  ammunition  has been addressed in California. Where, since 2007, only lead-free ammunition is permitted when hunting.  However, you will see from the link below, the LA Times reports a rise in lead poisoning of condors.  Effective or not, no such laws have been passed elsewhere yet, making the problem widespread.

Some interesting links you may like:
LA Times: Record 21 California condors treated at L.A. Zoo for lead poisoning
Hi Mountain Look Out
Kern County Look to Prevent More Condor Deaths

Fast Fact Attack – Endangered Species 10: The Vaquita

These very pretty porpoises, conspicuous by the large black rings around their eyes and mouths, are rarely seen in the wild. A female will give birth to one calf every 2 years or so. Calves are between 28-31 inches long at birth, and weigh about 17 lbs. The species itself was only recognised in 1958 after the discovery of some skulls. In 1985, live animals were finally sighted and described. The vaquita, meaning ‘little cow’ in Spanish, is the smallest of all cetaceans, with a length of up to 5 feet. Females, as with all porpoises, are larger than males.
Turbid water with a high nutrient content
The upper Gulf of California, Mexico
What do they eat?
Mainly squid, croakers, fish and crabs.
Habitat loss, bycatch, pesticide pollution and reductions in waterflow into the Gulf from the Colorado River. Natural predators which include some species of shark.
Status: Critically Endangered
In 2006, when the baiji (lipotes vexillifer) was thought to have become extinct, the vaquita was declared the most endangered cetacean on the planet. It is estimated fewer than 250 individuals remain. On October 28, 2008, Canada, Mexico, and the United States launched the North American Conservation Action Plan (NACAP) to help the plight of the vaquita.

In conservation, the motto should always be ‘never say die’.” 
 Gerald Durrell