Cistugidae – Wing-gland bats

This small South African family of bats is on the verge of extinction due to habitat loss

Native to the deserts of Lesotho, South Africa, Angola, and Namibia, these bats, colloquially known as hairy bats due to their dense fur, represent a remarkable example of life’s resilience in extreme conditions. The thick fur that envelops their bodies is not merely for show; it serves as crucial insulation, protecting these bats from the drastic temperature swings characteristic of desert climates, from scorching daytime heat to chilly night-time temperatures.

The habitats of Cistugidae bats are stark, arid landscapes that receive less than 9.9 cm (3.9 inches) of annual rainfall. These conditions create a challenging environment for life, yet these bats have adapted to thrive in such settings. Their presence in these ecosystems underscores the incredible adaptability of bats and their ability to colonize and persist in a wide range of habitats. However, this adaptability does not render them invulnerable to anthropogenic threats.

One of the most pressing threats facing Cistugidae bats is habitat loss, primarily due to increasing mining activities in their native desert regions. Mining operations can lead to significant alterations to the natural landscape, disrupting the delicate balance of these ecosystems and directly threatening the survival of species that reside within them. The extraction of minerals and other resources not only destroys roosting and foraging habitats for these bats but also can lead to pollution and water scarcity, further exacerbating the challenges of desert survival.

The plight of Cistugidae bats highlights a broader issue of biodiversity loss in arid and semi-arid regions, areas often overlooked in conservation efforts. These ecosystems, though seemingly inhospitable, harbor unique communities of flora and fauna adapted to survive under extreme conditions. The loss of species like the Cistugidae bats would not only mean the disappearance of an intriguing group of mammals but also a reduction in the biodiversity that underpins the health and stability of desert ecosystems.