Endangered Bat Species And Extinct Bats – Humanity’s Impact

For many of us, bats are iconic creatures of the night. Movies, TV shows, and Halloween decorations often depict these animals as spooky, dangerous, or even evil.

However, in reality, bats are incredibly beneficial to both the environment and humans. In fact, bats are the only mammals capable of true flight.

However, as interesting as bats are, throughout the years, their populations have been in decline.

While there are still many bat species that are doing well, there are also several that are endangered or even extinct.

If you’re curious about which bat species are struggling and why, read on to learn more about endangered bat species and extinct bats.

Why Have Bats Become Endangered?

There are many reasons why bats have become endangered. Among the most common reasons are the use of insecticides, poison to protect wood structures, and habitat loss.

Below, we’ll take a more in-depth look at each of these reasons.

Insecticides

In many countries around Europe and the Americas, the Microchiroptera, being at the end of the entomological food chain, suffered horribly as a result of mankind’s chemical war with insects.

Many populations crashed during the 1960s when the use of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) was widespread.

This insecticide not only killed the insects that bats ate, but it was also poisonous to the animal itself. Scientific research has shown that bats are more sensitive to DDT than either birds or other mammals.

The Mexican Free-tailed Bat, Tadarida brasiliensis, supplies a prime example. In 1937 the estimated mid-summer population of these bats in Carlsbad Carvern, New Mexico was 8.7 million, but by 1979 the estimated population was down to 218 thousand – or a mere 2.5 percent of what it was.

In addition, during a 1960s study of the bats of Eagle Creek Cave in Arizona, the mid-summer population was seen to drop from 25 million to only 30 thousand – or 0.12 percent of the original. This drastic decline was attributed to the use of DDT and other pesticides in agriculture.

Wood Preservatives

Poisoning also occurs when bats roost in man-made structures that have been treated with wood preservatives such as chromate copper arsenate (CCA). These chemicals can kill bats or make them too weak to fly, causing them to starve to death.

As we all know, bats love to roost in dark, secluded places such as the attics and crawl spaces of homes. Unfortunately, this means that they often come into contact with wood that has been treated with CCA.

The use of chlorinated hydrocarbons to protect wood from bats in both Europe and the USA has also had a detrimental effect on bat populations. In the USA, these pesticides were also used to specifically expel bats from roosts in houses.

According to the Encyclopedia of Mammals as edited by David Macdonald “In the United States fear of bats has been deliberately generated by the multi-million dollar pest control industry to attract business for the destruction of bats in buildings.”

As with all ecological problems, the two spines of the devil’s fork, ignorance and greed are largely to blame.

In more recent times, thanks to a lot of good work by a variety of conservationists and environmentalists, the use of such poisons have greatly declined – with synthetic pyrethroids and other similar chemicals taking their place. These chemicals are far less toxic to mammals.

Still, the damage to bat populations has been done and some species are now extinct as a result.

Habitat Loss

Poisons and persecution are of course not the only problem for endangered bats.

Habitat destruction, especially the loss of roosting and foraging sites, is also having a major impact.

The loss of old-growth forests has been especially hard on many bat species that rely on these ecosystems for both roosting and foraging.

As these forests are replaced by commercial timber plantations, the bats are left without the homes they need to survive.

In addition, the loss of wetlands has also been detrimental to bat populations. These habitats are important for a number of reasons, including providing the insects that bats feed on.

As development continues to encroach on natural habitats, it is likely that we will see more and more bat species added to the endangered list.

Other Contributors to Bat Population Declines

There are a number of other things that have had an impact on bat populations.

Other factors contributing to the extinction of certain bats are introduced species. In New Zealand, the spread of the introduced Polynesian Rat (Rattus exulans) and then the equally introduced Black Rat resulted in the decline and eventual extinction of Mystacina robusta (Rattus rattus).

Because these two species of rats prey on the same food source as Mystacina robusta they outcompeted the native bat for food, leading to its demise.

Other examples of introduced species damage include cats killing a large number of bats in the genus Chalinolobus in New Zealand and Australia, and juvenile Pteropus mariannus being eaten by the introduced tree-snake Boiga irregularis on Guam.

The Protection of Bats

The killing of bats for their meat and body parts is also a problem in some areas. Human consumption of bat meat is known to occur in Africa, Asia, the Pacific islands, and South America.

In all European countries, bats are now protected by law. In England, they are well protected by the law.

For instance, among other things, it is illegal to:

  • Intentionally kill, injure or capture a bat
  • Possess or control a live or dead bat, any part of a bat, or anything derived from a bat
  • Intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy, or obstruct access to any place that a bat uses for shelter or protection.

The laws in Wales and Scotland are pretty much the same. The penalty for breaking these laws is £5,000 per bat. You even need a license to photograph bats in the UK. See UK Bat Law. Unfortunately, bats in other parts of the world are not so well protected.

Although two entire genera, Pteropus and Acerodon, are listed on Apendices 1 and 2 of CITES.

Extinct Bats

Despite the measures that have been put in place to protect them, a number of bat species have already become extinct

Nevertheless at least 12 species of bats have gone extinct in recent times.

Scientific NameCommon NameDate of ExtinctionAuthority (1)Location
Acerodon luciferPanay Giant Fruit Back1892Elliot, 1896Panay Island, Philippines
Dobsonia chapmaniPhilippine Bare-backed Fruit Bat1970Rabor, 1952Cebu and Negros Islands, Philippines
Mystacina robustaNew Zealand Greater Short-tailed Bat1960sDwyer, 1962Big South Cape Island, New Zealand
Nyctophilus howensisLord Howe Long-eared Batbefore 1500McKean, 1975Australia and New Caledonia
Nyctimene sanctacrucisNendo Tube-nosed Bat1907Troughton, 1931Solomon and Santa Cruz Islands
Phyllonycteris majorPuerto Rican Flower Batbefore 1500Anthony, 1917Puerto Rico
Pipistrellus sturdeeiSturdee’s Pipistrelleafter 1915Thomas, 1915Bonin Islands
Pteropus brunneusDusky Flying Foxafter 1874Dobson, 1878Percy Island, Australia
Pteropus loochoensisOkinawa Flying FoxNo DataGray, 1870Ryukyu Island, Japan
Pteropus pilosusLarge Palau Flying Foxbefore 1874K. Andersen, 1908Palau
Pteropus subnigerDark Flying Fox1860s(Kerr, 1792)Mauritius and Reunion Islands
Pteropus tokudaeGuam Flying Fox1968Tate, 1934Guam

1 = The ‘Authority’ of a species is the name of the person who first described the species for science. The following date is the date of the description (if it is all in brackets it means the species has since been moved to a different genus)

Only three specimens of Pteropus tokudae were ever collected, the last being shot by hunters in 1968. Despite intensive fieldwork on the island’s fruit bats, no observations of the Guam Fruit Bat have been recorded since this time.

Below are two lists of both endangered and critically endangered bat species, both from the IUCN 2003 list. Don’t forget to check out the latest IUCN SSC Bat Specialist Group for the latest data for 2020.

Endangered Bats

Scientific NameCommon Name
Acerodon jubatusGolden Capped Fruit Bat
Balantiopteryx infuscaEcuadorian Sac-winged Bat
Chalinolobus neocaledonicus
Chiroderma improvisumGuadeloupe Big-eyed Bat
Craseonycteris thonglongyaiKitti’s Hog-nosed Bat
Dobsonia beaufortiBeaufort’s Naked-backed Fruit Bat
Emballonura semicaudataPacific Sheath-tailed Bat
Eptesicus guadeloupensisGuadeloupe Big Brown Bat
Glischropus javanusJavan Thick-thumbed Bat
Hesperoptenus doriaeFalse Serotine Bat
Hipposideros turpisLesser Great Leaf-nosed Bat
Laephotis namibensisNamib Long-eared Bat
Leptonycteris nivalisMexican Long-nosed Bat
Miniopterus robustiorLoyalty Bent-winged Bat
Mormopterus phrudusIncan Little Mastiff Bat
Murina griseaPeter’s Tube-nosed Bat
Murina ussuriensisUssuri Tube-nosed Bat
Myonycteris brachycephalaSao Tome* Collared Fruit Bat
Myotis findleyiFindley’s Myotis
Myotis grisescensGrey Myotis
Myotis milleriMiller’s Myotis
Myotis ozensisHonshu Myotis
Myotis pruinosusFrosted Myotis
Myotis schaubiSchaub’s Myotis
Myotis sodalisIndiana Bat
Myotis stalkeriKei Myotis
Nyctophilus heranSunda Long-eared Bat
Phyllonycteris aphyllaJamaican Flower Bat
Pipistrellus endoiEndo’s Pipistrelle
Pteropus dasymallusRyukyu Fluing Fox
Pteropus leucopterusWhite-winged Flying Fox
Pteropus mariannusMarianna Flying Fox
Rhinolophus imaizumiiImaizumi’s Horseshoe Bat
Rhinolophus keyensisInsular Horseshoe Bat
Rhogeessa alleniAllen’s Yellow Bat
Rhogeessa miraLeast Yellow Bat
Sturnira thomasiThomas’s Yellow-shouldered Bat

Critically Endangered Bats

Scientific NameCommon Name
Aproteles bulmeraeBulmer’s Fruit Bat
Chaerephon gallagheriGallagher’s Free-tailed Bat
Coleura seychellensisSeychelles Sheath-tailed Bat
Hipposideros nequamMalayan Roundleaf Bat
Latidens salimaliiSalim Ali’s Fruit Bat
Mops niangaraeNiangara Free-tailed Bat
Murina tenebrosaGloomy Tube-nosed Bat
Myotis cobanensisGuatemalan Myotis
Myotis planicepsFlat-headed Myotis
Nyctimene raboriPhilippine Tube-nosed Bat
Otomops wroughtoniWroughton’s free-tailed Bat
Paracoelops megalotisVietnam Leaf-nosed Bat
Pharotis imogeneNew Guinea Big-eared Bat
Pipistrellus anthonyiAnthony’s Pipistrelle
Pipistrellus joffreiJoffre’s Pipistrelle
Pteralopex acrodontaFijian Monkey-faced Bat
Pteralopex ancepsBougainville Monkey-faced Bat
Pteralopex atrataCusp-toothed Flying fox
Pteralopex pulchraMontane Monkey-faced Bat
Pteropus insularisChuuk Flying Fox
Pteropus livingstoniiComoro Black Flying Fox
Pteropus molossinusCaroline Flying Fox
Pteropus phaeocephalusMortlock Flying Fox
Pteropus pselaphonBonnin Flying Fox
Pteropus rodricensisRodrigues Flying Fox
Pteropus voeltzkowiPemba Flying Fox
Rhinolophus convexusBat
Scotophilus borbonicusLesser Yellow Bat
Taphozous troughtoniBat
Photo of author

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

We love to hear from our readers. If you have any questions or if you want to get in touch with us, you can find our contact details on our About Us page.

Leave a Comment