Hawaiian hoary bat to join group of state’s official animals

Local News

On Wednesday, Governor Ige is expected to sign into law a Senate bill designating the ope’ape’a, or Hawaiian hoary bat, as the official state land mammal

The ope’ape’a will join the pulelehua or Kamehameha butterfly (insect), nene goose (bird), humpback whale (marine mammal), monk seal (mammal) and humuhumunukunukuapua’a (fish) as part of the group of the official state animals.

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

  • The ope’ape’a is Hawaii’s only native land mammal, and is a subspecies found only in Hawai’ Fossils reveal its presence in Hawaii as early as 10,000 years ago.
  • The ope’ape’a is nocturnal, however no evidence of vampirical activity has been reported.
  • The ope’ape’a is insectivorous, and eats mosquitoes, 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 ope’ape’a is listed as an endangered species by the federal U.S. 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 ope’ape’a population.
  • The ope’ape’a  uses 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 ope’ape’a.
  • The ope’ape’a can fly up to 60 miles per hour and is one of the only animals capable of sustained flight.

The Endangered Specific Recovery Committee of the Department of Land and Natural Resources met April 14 to discuss ways to protect the bats, including preventing them from flying in to and being killed by wind turbines.

“This is really an ambitious workshop and we’re hoping to have clear guidelines and policy regarding how to best mitigate and provide the most benefit to our species here,” said Afsheen Siddiqi, DLNR conservation initiatives coordinator.

The committee discussed options such as bat deterrent technology using human-safe ultraviolet light and pausing tree trimming during pupping season.

The DLNR said the species can be found on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island, but it’s unclear how many of the bats are left.

“They do go up in the high elevation caves in Mauna Loa for foraging as well, so they’re really found throughout many ecosystems and areas around the island,” Siddiqi said.

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