Experts Plead for Surviving Bats to Enter Rehab

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kirsten Stade [PEER] (202) 265-7337;
Kate Rugroden (817) 303-7597

Experts Plead for Surviving Bats to Enter Rehab

Remaining Ten Rare Big-Eared Bats Do Not Have to Die for Science

WASHINGTON -  Bat experts are desperately trying to
persuade federal officials to move the last ten bats from a disastrous
captive breeding program into rehabilitation so that they have a chance
to recover, according to correspondence released today by Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  Only ten of the 40
healthy endangered Virginia big-eared bats collected by the Smithsonian
Institution's Conservation and Research Center (CRC) are still alive,
although these ten are in poor health.

Citing mishandling by CRC, PEER has filed a formal complaint to
revoke the Center's permit issued by the Fish & Wildlife Service and
to relocate the few survivors to a qualified sanctuary.  The Fish &
Wildlife Service gave CRC a grant to run this program in response to
white-nose syndrome, a fatal disease that is threatening several eastern
bat species with extinction, by establishing captive breeding
populations.  None of the Virginia big-eared bats (VBEB) in CRC custody
have white-nose syndrome.

As it reviews the PEER complaint, the Fish & Wildlife
Service has taken the position that moving the bats is ill-advised
because it "would cause additional stress", according to an agency
spokesperson. This position is hotly disputed by, among others, Amanda
Lollar, Founder and President of Bat World Sanctuary, the nation's
leading bat rehabilitation center.  In a March 12, 2010 e-mail to the
Fish & Wildlife Service official overseeing the ill-fated bat
captive breeding program, Ms. Lollar writes

"It also appears that, again without consulting bat care
specialists, it has been declared that moving the bats will create
additional stress.  This is absurd…This is what bat care specialists do,
we transfer sick and dying animals to bat care facilities and bring
them back to heath.  This can, and SHOULD, be done for the remaining 10
VBEB that are still alive."  (Emphasis in original)

Her message ends with this plea: "Those bats have suffered
enough and deserve a chance to live…For the sake of those animals, just
do the right thing one time, before it is too late."  (Emphasis in
original)

In a public statement issued on March 15, 2010, the CRC attacked
the bat expert it retained who blew the whistle on the problems.  In
her December 2009 report, Missy Singleton, the bat consultant, not only
detailed deficiencies but accurately predicted the escalating mortality
of the remaining bats over the ensuing months.  CRC dismissed her input
as "inconsistent and often unsupported" and insisted that by keeping the
bats it is learning unspecified valuable lessons "to help develop the
best animal husbandry practices and conservation protocols."

"The only lessons learned from this lamentable episode are
unprintable," stated PEER Staff Counsel Christine Erickson, noting that
there are only 15,000 Virginia big-eared bats left in the wild.  "The
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service should not let its internal politics
result in any more needless deaths of this remarkable and endangered
species."

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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