An elusive bat in the forests of Nicaragua has caught the attention of researchers at Northern Arizona University. The Vampyrum spectrum is the largest bat in the Americas, with a three foot wingspan. Wildlife biologist Carol Chambers collects data on the rare animal. She says habitat loss and human disturbance make them particularly susceptible to population decline.
“These bats are forest bats. They’ll fly through things that you wouldn’t expect bats to be able to fly through. So we put up what are called mist nets and they look like a very fine hair net, and we just try to cover areas that we think bats might fly through,” say Chambers.
Chambers says the carnivorous Vampyrum need large tracts of old growth forest to thrive. But, so far, there are only three known roosting areas. Chambers outfits the bats with radio transmitters to learn more about their behavior.
“We want to know where the bat roosts, and we also want to know what these bats eat because we don’t have very many samples collected for the bat. So the things we were able to do is locate a roost — the first roost for the country of Nicaragua — and collect guano, so we’ll genetically determine the diet of the bat. We’ll help answer a little bit more about this very rare and unusual species,” Chambers says.
Chambers believes the Vampyrum spectrum could be a conservation indicator informing scientists about the health of old growth tropical forests and the animals that live there.