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Wildlife

The Intriguing Bats of Puerto Rico

There are approximately thirteen bat species in Puerto Rico including the Parnell’s moustached bat, big brown and red bat, the Mexican bulldog bat (fishing bat), the Antillean ghost-faced bat, Mexican free-tailed bat and the Jamaican fruit-eating bat. Of these thirteen species of bat, seven of them eat mainly insects, one variety lives on nectar alone, one species eats fish and the other four species eat fruit. Interestingly, the bats on the Greater Antillean islands do not eat amphibians and lizards, a prey that is abundant on these islands.

Bats are the only mammals native to Puerto Rico that have survived the Europeans and the Amerindians colonizing the island. About 40% of these specific types of bat species are found only on the Greater Antillean islands. The other 60% is found on these islands, as well as in Mexico and the United States of America.

The northwest side of the island of Puerto Rico is an important bat habitat. This part of the island is made up of karst country, which is also called the “haystack hills”. This particular type of topography is formed over dolomite, gypsum and limestone that is associated with caves, sinkholes and underground drainage. This type of habitat provides a perfect living area for these nocturnal mammals.

On the island, the local people have a misguided view about bats, viewing them as diseased creatures that should be exterminated immediately if found. The bats’ habitat is also threatened by man’s technological advances. Infrastructure and urban development means that more and more of the bats unique habitat is quickly being destroyed. The Puerto Rican Department of Environmental and Natural Resources is working hard to identify areas of land that bats feed off and live in. By doing this the Puerto Rican Department can protect these tracts of land because of their conservation value.

Puerto Rico is about 100 miles by 35 miles worth of island and has been part of the United States since 1898. The island is part of a group of islands called the Greater Antilles that includes Jamaica and Cuba. The topography of the island of Puerto Rico is made up of wetlands, rain forests, karst formations and thorn scrubs. These various habitats are home to an abundance of Puerto Rican wildlife, including bats.