East Hawaii News

Hawaiian Hoary Bat to Become State Land Mammal

April 22, 2015, 8:25 AM HST
* Updated April 22, 8:27 AM
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Governor David Ige is expected to sign Senate Bill 1183 this afternoon, which will designate the ōpe’ape’a, also known as the Hawaiian hoary bat, as Hawai’i’s official state land mammal.

Senate Bill 1183 was introduced by Senator Sam Slom, who says “The ōpe’ape’a is worthy of the title of land mammal because it has been here for so long, and faithfully provides free pest control services to us all. Most importantly, this bipartisan effort to elevate the bat’s status to state land mammal will increase awareness of the environmental issues affecting its survival.”

Testimony in support of the appointment was submitted by from a variety of bat admirers, including The Nature Conservancy, who said that “The Hawaiian hoary bat is truly a wonder. It can fly. It can echolocate. It has the ability to enter torpor (a limited hibernation) to cope with periods of food (i.e., insect) shortages or inclement weather.” In addition, The Nature Conservancy has commented on the species ability to fly 2,500 miles from North America to the most isolated islands in the Pacific and still managing to thrive.

Additional public comment was submitted by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, who stated that the ōpe’ape’a is the only native land mammal in the state of Hawai’i.

Texas-based Bat Conservation International is another group that is for the official induction, saying, “The pest control services of Hawaiian hoary bats to fields and forests across the islands are as natural as they are valuable – reducing the need for toxic pesticides that linger in the soil and water.”

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Here are some quick facts on the ōpe’ape’a:

  • The ōpe’ape’a is Hawai’i’s only native land mammal, and is a subspecies found only in Hawai’i. Fossils reveal its presense in Hawai’i as early as 10,000 years ago.
  • The ōpe’ape’a is nocturnal, however, no evidence of vampirical activity has been reported.
  • The ōpe’ape’a is insectivorous and eats mosquitos, moths, beetles, termites, flies, and other insects. A single Hawaiian hoary bat can consume 40 percent of its body weight in bugs in a single night.
  • The ōpe’ape’a is listed as an endangered species by the federal United States Fish and Wildlife Service and by the state. Deforestation and collision with man-made structures like wind turbines and barbed wire fences pose a threat to the ōpe’ape’a population.
  • The ōpe’ape’a use echolocation to hunt, meaning it creates ultrasonic pulses in its throat and emits the pulses through its mouth or nose, which bounces off insect prey, transmitting the location of the prey to the ōpe’ape’a.
  • The ōpe’ape’a can fly up to 60 miles per hour and is one of the only animals capable of sustained flight.
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As the newest addition to Hawai’i’s official state animals, the ōpe’ape’a will join the Kamehameha butterfly (insect),  nene goose (bird), humpback whale (marine mammal), monk seal (mammal), and humuhumunukunukuapua’a (fish).

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