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Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Governor Ige to Sign Bill Designating the Hawaiian Hoary Bat As State Land Mammal
By Sen. Sam Slom @ 5:26 AM :: 6054 Views :: Environment, Hawaii History

Governor Ige to Sign Bill Designating the Hawaiian Hoary Bat As State Land Mammal

News Release from Office of Sen Sam Slom April 20, 2015

HONOLULU – Senate Bill 1183[1], designating the ōpe‘ape‘a or Hawaiian hoary bat as the official state land mammal, flew through the Senate, glided through the House of Representatives, and will land on Governor Ige's desk in the attic of the Capitol Building for his signature on Wednesday, April 22, 2015, at 2pm.  Members of the media are invited to attend.

The ōpe‘ape‘a will join the pulelehua or Kamehameha butterfly (insect), nene goose (bird), humpback whale (marine mammal), monk seal (mammal) and humuhumunukunukuapua‘a (fish) to take its rightful place in the elite club of official Hawai‘i state animals.

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 presence 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 mosquitoes, moths, beetles, termites, flies and other insects.  A single Hawaiian hoary bat can consume 40% of its body weight in bugs in a single night.  

· The ōpe‘ape‘a is listed as an endangered species by the federal US 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  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 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.

Senator Sam Slom, who introduced Senate Bill 1183, says, "Theōpe‘ape‘a is worthy of the title of state 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."

Scores of admirers have lauded the bat's praises, including The Nature Conservancy, which submitted testimony[2] on the measure in public hearings held at the Hawai‘i Capitol: "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."  The Nature Conservancy also pointed out that the ōpe‘ape‘a accomplished a remarkable feat by flying 2,500 miles from North America to the most isolated islands in the Pacific, and managing to thrive.

Theresa Menard, who Governor Ige recently nominated to serve on the Legacy Land Conservation Commission, is another bat fan.  In 2001, she wrote her Masters thesis[3] for the University of Hawaii on the ōpe‘ape‘a.

The bill also has the enthusiastic support of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.  OHA also submitted testimony[4]:  "The endangeredōpe‘ape‘a, as the only native land mammal in our state, is itself a particularly poignant example of the evolutionary exceptionalism of our indigenous fauna, and its current conservation status further highlights the vulnerability of our native and endemic life."

According to testimony[5] from Texas-based Bat Conservation International, "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."

Proponents of SB1183, affectionately referred to as 'the bat bill,' hope that designation of the ōpe‘ape‘a as Hawai‘i's official land mammal will help to raise awareness around preserving the forests of Hawaii, where the ōpe‘ape‘a is known to roost in kukui and ohia trees.

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SA: Hawaiian hoary bat to be named official state land mammal


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