It had not been seen for 40 years and was believed to be extinct. Hill’s horseshoe bat has survived in Rwanda, in a rainforest, where one of its specimens was spotted by an international team of scientists. A discovery “unbelievable” and bearer of hope for biodiversity.
In 2021, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed this bat species as: “critically endangered”† And for good reason, the Rhinolophus hillic of its scientific name had not been observed for decades, and scientists had no information about how many specimens were still alive in the wild. But contrary to what environmental defenders feared, the species has not disappeared.
On Tuesday, March 8, the American organization Bat Conservation International (BCI), which works to protect the world’s bats, indeed indicated that a specimen of the species had been found by scientists. The mammal in question was located in Rwanda, in the heart of the Nyungwe tropical forest, which is also home to mountain gorillas, another endangered species, as reported by the GEO†
AFTER 40 YEARS, WE REDISCOVERED HILL’S HORSESHOE BAT (𝘙𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘰𝘭𝘰𝘱𝘩𝘶𝘴 𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘪), A “LOST SPECIES” THAT MAY BE EXtinct. https://t.co/JxUZ9kpa7b
dr. Jon Vlaanderen, Bat Conservation International pic.twitter.com/TgQSqwkOPS
—Bat Conservation International (@BatConIntl) March 8, 2022
“The real work begins now”
Since 2013, the BCI has been working with the Rwanda Development Board and the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association to conduct surveys in the jungle and try to find this supposedly extinct bat. A team of scientists finally discovered a specimen of the species in 2019, after a 10-day expedition. † We knew immediately that the bat we caught was unusual and remarkable, BCI chief scientist Winifred Frick said in a statement. The features were so exaggerated that they were comical. †
The captured specimen was measured and photographed before it was released, the BCI says. It took three years of research before scientists could confirm that it was indeed a Hill’s horseshoe bat. “It was incredible to rediscover the lost species, said BCI director Jon Flanders. It’s amazing to think we’re the first to see this bat for so long. † Before adding: “Now our real work is starting to understand how to protect this species in the long term.”
An incredible discovery that reinforces the need to conserve the ecosystems in which these endangered species live.