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For Immediate Release, January 29, 2008

Contact:

Mark Donham, Heartwood, (618) 564-3367, markkris@earthlink.net
Leigh Haynie, Center for Biological Diversity, (337) 962-6387, lhaynie@biologicaldiversity.org

Mysterious Disease Threatens the Survival of North American Bats;
Conservation Groups Ask for Immediate Protections

RUTLAND, Vt.– In response to information about a mysterious illness that has been associated with the deaths of more than 8,000 bats, conservation groups today asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to close all bat hibernation sites and withdraw all federal permits to “take” — that is, harm or kill — imperiled bats until the cause of the deaths is understood. One species of bat that is at risk is the endangered Indiana bat.

While details are limited, scientists have given the name “white-nose syndrome” to describe a Fusarium mold that is exhibited around the dead bats’ noses. The syndrome is associated with the discovery of thousands of dead bats in at least two Albany, New York-area caves last winter. The two caves apparently lost over half their populations. This winter the “white-nose syndrome” has been found on a bat in a Vermont cave.

“Throughout the years, we have warned that the Indiana bat was one catastrophe from extinction. The public needs to know what the Fish and Wildlife Service is doing to meet this immediate threat, ” said Mark Donham, program director for Heartwood.

The Indiana bat is one of the most endangered terrestrial mammals in the world. It was first listed under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966. At least 700 individuals of this endangered and legally protected species have died in New York in the past 18 months. It is unknown if white-nose syndrome is the cause of the death or a symptom of what causes the death.

“Regardless of why these bats are dying, we must prepare for the worst,” said Leigh Haynie, staff attorney for Center for Biological Diversity. “The Missouri and Kentucky populations of Indiana bats have been decimated; if the Vermont and New York populations of this endangered species are also dying, the Fish and Wildlife Service must take immediate emergency action to ensure this species does not go extinct. These are dire circumstances. The agency must act with all due haste.”

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The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 40,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. www.biologicaldiversity.org

Heartwood is a regional, nonprofit organization with a focus on environmental issues, particularly the protection of forests in the eastern United States. Heartwood is active in the protection of forests and native species of the eastern United States.


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