September 23, 2010

UN Launches ‘Year Of The Bat’

The U.N. launched the "year of the bat" Wednesday, hoping that putting the mammal in the public spotlight might help people gain a better understanding of the role the animal plays in pollination and dispersal of seeds.

"From insect-eating bats in Europe that provide important pest control to seed-dispersing bats in the tropics that help sustain rainforests, bats deliver vital ecosystem services across a wide range of environments," the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said.

It said that bat populations have dropped in recent decades because of habitat loss, as well as the increase of urbanization and epidemics.

"Compared to animals like tigers and elephants, bats receive little positive attention," EUROBATS Executive Secretary Andreas Streit told AFP News.

"But they are fascinating mammals and play an indispensable role in maintaining our environment."

Half of the world's 1,100 bat species are endangered because of deforestation and other threats.

"Most people are unaware that bats provide invaluable services to the environment," the UNEP said.

"Fruit agriculture, central to tropical economies, depends to a large extent on the ecological contributions of fruit bats. An estimated 134 plants that yield products used by humans are partially or entirely reliant on bats for seed dispersal or pollination."


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