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Some people are afraid of bats, and associate them with spread of diseases. Some are just annoyed by them around the house. In some parts of the world, they're seen as creepy, and even used as a ghoulish symbol on holidays such as Halloween.

There are of course people like me who are fascinated by them and like to watch them fly around, although where I live in Northeastern United States, I've never seen more than a few at a time.

Texas has a few areas of established bat colonies where tourists can go to see them in their natural habitat. A trip there is on my wish list if I ever get the chance!

A hurricane did tremendous damage to the whole area last year. Many conservation groups, scientists and concerned citizens worked hard for months to salvage as much of the habitat and as many animals as possible. I was told that apparently large conservation organizations from all over the world joined with them. Why would they do that? Devoting so many resources and money seems like a lot unless bats are important for reasons other than tourism.

What's so important about bats that conservationists from all over the world want to save them?

  • 2
    I recommend the book "The World Without Us" which examines what would happen if humans suddenly disappeared. It would be very tough on pets and domestic animals, and if we disappeared so abruptly that there was not time to shut down refineries, power plants and the like, it would be very nasty, locally. Otherwise, it would be good for ecosystems. Bats are far more important to ecosystems than homo sap! – ab2 Jun 4 '18 at 20:18
  • Why do people sink so much money into seeing silly movies? =) Because it's something they like. – jpmc26 Jun 5 '18 at 9:11
  • I don't see ChickadeeMan fighting crime in Gotham City, – Harper Jun 6 '18 at 15:05
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Bats eat hundreds of mosquitos per bat every night, which is amazing for human peoples and the principle reason people hang up special made bat houses. Bat guano (poop) also creates habitats for other species. There are entire ecosystems in caves that exist only because of bats. In those ecosystems bats are the only creatures leaving the deep dark regions of the caves and returning each day. When they're out at night they fill their bellies, and when they're hanging out during the day they're dropping their guano to the ground where many creepy crawlies pick through it, sustaining thriving populations. If the bats die off, then that supply chain is severed, and there's a chance that the entire cave will die, because suddenly nothing is replenishing the food supply.

  • That stuff was important to the war effort IIRC. Before Nobel(?) Learned to fix nitrogen, guano was precious for munitions and fertilizer. Still is ; it's a staple of organic farming. – Harper Jun 6 '18 at 15:03
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You could ask what the importance is of any species or related group of animals. They all have their place in the ecosystem, and there will be consequences when any of them disappear.

In the particular case of bats, they are quite beneficial to humans. They eat a good fraction of their body weight in flying insects every night. They are also the only pollinators for some plants.

Bats have been in decline recently due to a fungus. This fungus has decimated bats in much of North America. Hurricanes have occasionally hit parts of Texas for thousands of years, and bat colonies must have been damaged as a result before. Certainly the bats would eventually rebound, as has doubtlessly happened many times in the past.

Perhaps people felt that the hurricane damage together with the fungus was a tougher hurdle for the bats to recover from. The fact that these colonies have become somewhat known almost certainly helped people decide to go out of their way to help the bats.

The decline due to the fungus is quite dramatic and real. Until about the late 1990s, we used to see bats regularly flying around our house in the evening here in north-central Massachusetts. We even put out some bat boxes to give them more nesting options. Unfortunately, bats have become a rare sight lately. Now most evenings in the summer I can look at the sky for five minutes or more and not see a single bat.

  • There are a lot of caves in the Rockies that are off limits because of bat habitat. They have special bars that keep people out but let bats fly in and out easy. It's expected that people will clean their clothes and gear in order to prevent the transfer of dirt from one cave to another, and the spread of white nose syndrome. – ShemSeger Jun 4 '18 at 21:42
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    @ShemSeger: The position of that line-break had me hoping it was going to say "They have special bars ... where only bats can get a drink". Probably run by west-coast hippies :P – Peter Cordes Jun 6 '18 at 5:11
  • "It's real! Look at this anecdotal evidence!" doesn't really make for a strong argument. (Which doesn't mean that it's not true either, of course.) – Jasper Jun 6 '18 at 12:31
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They're part of the ecosystem. If they go away, it creates an imbalance that can't be fixed. Simple example, they eat huge numbers of mosquitoes. Kill the bats, and you free the mosquitoes to multiply as they please.

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    Bats aren't the only things that eat mosquitos. Take bats out of the equation and you'll see a surge in some other species because suddenly they don't have to compete with bats for their food supply. – ShemSeger Jun 4 '18 at 4:51
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    @ShemSeger - Fair enough, but there's value in diversity. When one event weakens one predator, the others are there to fill in. Reduce diversity, and you increase the impact of a single negative event. – Don Branson Jun 4 '18 at 17:03
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To add to the excellent answers already posted:

  • Bats act as prey for larger birds like hawks, falcons, snakes et al.
  • Bats (the larger ones known as flying foxes) help in seed dispersal as they eat fruits.
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    Not all "large" bats are flying foxes. That's a specific group of bats that generally happen to be large. However, none of them live in Texas. – Olin Lathrop Jun 4 '18 at 19:55
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    Hi @OlinLathrop, the question refers to bat conservation all over the world. Texas is just given as an example where bats were affected. – Ricketyship Jun 5 '18 at 5:44
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Biggest reason for people: pest control

  • One bat can eat between 600 to 1,000+ mosquitoes and other flying pests per hour!
  • Loss of bats to WNS alone results in > 5 million lbs. of insects going uneaten!
  • Bats provide upwards of $50 billion annually in pest control services!

Bats are also a vital part of the environment!

Bats provide a vital nutritional link between a cave ecosystem and the environment outside; often the base of the food chain. Bat guano supplies the only food source for cave-dwelling micro-organisms and invertebrates, which become a food source for fish, salamanders and other large animals.

Not to mention the ecosystem impact of eating all those insects!!


Sources:

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