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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bats- disappearing from many parts of the world

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Bats are disappearing, from the northeastern United States to the Midwest, due to a disease that showed up only four winters ago in upstate New York. The illness is called white-nose syndrome, for the fuzzy white fungus that appears around bats' muzzles.In India, bats have other causes for their disappearance too. And, one of the several causes for their disappearance in some states like Jharkhand, Bihar, Bengal, and M.P. is their killing for the taste of tongue.

While biologists have called this bat catastrophe the worst wildlife die-off in North American history, federal wildlife and land-management agencies have responded with excruciating slowness.No attempt has ever been taken for their conservation in Indian states.A national white-nose syndrome plan that was due out last winter in America has still not been released. And the Department of the Interior failed to request funds for white-nose syndrome in its 2011 budget. So Congress appropriated zero dollars for the research and management actions that are so desperately needed.

Meanwhile, white-nose syndrome is stalking bats of the American West, and is already infiltrating some of the most abundant and diverse bat colonies in the world, in the Midwest and South. More than a million bats have died, and cave ecosystems reliant on bats are in jeopardy, too.

The bat-killing fungal infection known as white nose syndrome (WNS) has spread into Tennesse for the first time. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) has confirmed that infected bats were found in Worley's cave in Sullivan County, where they had been hibernating.

Most Tennessee caves were closed visitors last spring to try to prevent WNS from reaching the state's bats. That effort may have come too late.WNS has killed hundreds of thousands of bats in the U.S. since it was discovered in New York State just three years ago, including large numbers of endangered Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis). Vermont has lost at least 95 percent of its bats since WNS was first observed within its borders.

Tennessee is not taking the threat lightly. "Bats provide a tremendous public service in terms of pest control," said the TWRA's Richard Kirk in a prepared statement. "If we lose 500,000 bats, we'll lose the benefits from that service and millions of pounds of insects will still be flying around our neighborhoods, agricultural fields and forests."eanwhile, attempts to understand and fight WNS are moving forward on multiple fronts.

In Pennsylvania biologists DeeAnn Reeder of Bucknell University and Greg Turner from the Pennsylvania Game Commission are experimenting with anti-fungal agents, treating infected bats to see if their survival rates improve. But since WNS may be a symptom, not the actual cause of the bats' deaths, it's too early to tell if the anti-fungal will be effective in reducing mortality rates. "This will help us provide data as to whether fungus is the causative agent," Turner told The Times – Tribune of Scranton . Researchers for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation are trying a similar tactic in the Adirondacks.Funding to help study WNS has been included in the Obama administration's most recent budget. Congress approved $1.9 million for WNS research last year.

Key Words : bats, white nose syndrome, Dee Ann Reeder, Bucknell University

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