The long-nosed bat is part of the family of leaf-nosed bats, or Phyllostomidae, found in the temperate forests of the Americas. Chiroptera is the specific order the long-nosed bat belongs to--chiroptera is reserved for flying mammals, so yes, bats are mammals, like you and I. Except, we are giants in comparison. Leptonyctaris nivalis is only slightly larger than a hummingbird. And similar to a hummingbird, this warm-weather bat hovers in front of the plants it relies on for food. Plants like columnar cacti and blue agave. In North America, these bats are primarily found in Mexico, immigrating to Texas for only a few months of the year before going south of the border again.
But what is it that they eat?
Using their long noses, they maneuver their tongues close enough to a flower to actually sip the nectar. But that's not all these amazing little mammals do. Like bees, the long-nosed bat is a pollinator.
Remember the bee-scare? You may not. For most people, bees are a hinderance, something to avoid, along with their stingers. But bees are an important part of balancing our eco-system, as illustrated in the 2007 animated DreamWorks flick, Bee Movie, with Jerry Seinfeld. In 1999, there was a noticable decrease in the bee population. While you may have felt relieved to not see so many of those hot-weather stingers, you may have also noticed a worsening of pollen. Ah. Now you remember. The pollen count in the last decade has gotten so high, people who never suffered from outdoor-related allergies before find themselves reaching for a Claritan. So, we need the bees. Badly. And we need other pollinators, too.
Pollinators, like bees and the Mexican long-nosed bat, move pollen around in a flower or plant and cause fertilization. And fertilization means reproduction of the plant or flower...and just in case you weren't following, we NEED plants and flowers to reproduce to maintain our eco-system. Not only that, plants, like the blue agave, are being studied for their versatility in medicine, particularly with helping things like colon cancer, crohn's disease or colitis. Kind of a handy thing to have around then, isn't it? Not just the blue agave, but its pollinator, the Mexican long-nosed bat.
The problem is that the bats natural habitat has been shrinking with increased industry and construction. While people can certainly grow the blue agave in labs, and can even act as artificial pollinators (a painstaking process), there is a loss in genetic diversity from cultivated plants (which means the medicinally helpful ingredients are losing their potency...not good). If you're not sure what that means, think of it as a limited gene pool--a very limited gene pool. Like reproducing with your mother or father kind of limited. Taboo for humans, and it should be for everything else as well.
Unfortunately, with the disappearance of temperate forests in Mexico and parts of Texas, there's a disappearance of blue agave and other cacti AND a disappearance of the Mexican long-nosed bat.
Leptonyctaris nivalis is on what's called the "red list." The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (emphasis on the natural resources aka ways to benefit the human economy) or IUCN was founded in 1948 in France and is now headquarted in Switzerland. More than 10,000 experts from over 200 states and government agencies, as well as close to 800 non-government agencies, make up the IUCN. The IUCN has studied literally thousands of species and painstakingly categorized those in the most jeopardy from yellow to orange to red. Red is obviously the list you DON'T want to be on if you're a species the ICUN has studied. Because red means extiction.
Our little long-nosed friends are on the red list.
I've sat back and listened carefully to both sides of the political fence on environmental issues and frankly, politics has no place here. But WE do. WE meaning humans--the only organisms on the planet who have complex brain structures combined with opposable thumbs, and the only organisms on the planet who, because of our brain-thumb advantage, make the MOST TROUBLE on the planet.
Global warming is a farce...you know you've heard it. I have. And however you feel about Al Gore and his Inconvenient Truth, you should still be aware that our planet is struggling under the burden of negative environmental effects WE have created. I mean, do you have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that exhaust from planes, trains and automobiles is BAD??? Gee, I hope not. Have you ever breathed in the exhaust of a car? Would you? Not if you could help it, right? Why? Because it's BAD for you. Doh! A Homer Simpson moment if ever there was one. But that's fairly obvious. What about the less-obvious, but just as detrimental, effects from what is a universal global crisis, even if 80% of the human world is STILL in denial? Less-obvious, like the long-nosed bat on the endangered species red list?
Dear readers, we are in SERIOUS trouble. We MUST remove those distractions that allow us to defer our self-responsibility. I spoke about self-responsibility in my last entry on Sartre. If we don't evolve our consciousness, and soon, maybe not us, maybe not our children, maybe not even our grandchildren...but some future generation directly connected to us in the not-so-distant future will pay for our recklessness. And that's really what it is. Reckless. When we are not responsible for ourselves and our actions, just because we don't happen to feel the acute effects today, does not make that lack of responsibility okay. And I'm not being preachy here--I'm part of the problem, too. Do you know how I learned all this? Everything about the long-nosed bat? About the ICUN? About the blue agave? I was researching the history of tequila. Sad, but true. I recently had a lovely dinner at a local restaurant owned by this very nice family with Mexican heritage. There were more varieties of tequila than I had ever seen in my life on their menu. I was AMAZED by the variety and curiosity got the best of me. I HAD to learn more. What I thought was just a simple distilled liquor derived from cacti has an INCREDIBLE story behind it--and it all starts wiith leptonyctaris nivalis, the Mexican long-nosed bat.
As I've said many times before, connections are all around us--even when we don't recognize those connections immediately--they're there. I'm not asking you to vote one way or another. I'm not asking you to donate to some environmental group. All I'm asking is that you begin to THINK a bit more about those details that seem unimportant...like the long-nosed bat. Once you recognize the importance of a very small mammal like the Mexican bat, you may begin to see how important other "small" details you've missed along the way truly are. Opening your eyes is just the first step...but it's a step forward. And ultimately, that's all we can do--keep moving forward.
Good luck to you, dearest readers...until next time.