The world's largest bat colony has been saved from a San Antonio (Texas) land developer thanks to efforts from conservation groups, Nature Conservancy announced on Friday, ensuring the protection of vital habitat, including the famous Bracken Bat Cave, home to 15 million Mexican free-tail bats.
As part of a $20 million deal a 5,000-acre swath of land was taken out of the hands of the development company Galo Properties and placed into the protective care of the non-profit group Nature Conservancy.
"Bracken Cave is the largest colony of bats in the world, somewhere between 15 and 20 million Mexican free-tail bats," Nature Conservancy spokeswoman Laura Hutchins told NPR. "So they deposit the baby in what we call the nursery section of the cave, which is just millions of hairless baby bats, so when you look at it, it's a ceiling of pink, hairless baby bats."
The gestation period of a female bat, according to Defenders of Wildlife, can range anywhere from 40 days to six months. And during that time, nursing mothers are gaining their weight in milk as well as eating their body weight in insects every day.
"So this colony alone, that's 100 tons of bugs every night," Hutchins explained.
Not only is this food frenzy necessary to produce healthy pups, which will only weigh up to 25 percent of its mother's weight at birth, but it also serves as a natural pest control, saving farmers billions of dollars nationwide and reducing the need to use insecticides.
Ther are about 1,000 bat species worldwide, Defenders says, and while some like those in San Antonio number in the millions, many species are in decline or becoming rare.