Thanks to the extraordinary findings of the richness and diversity of bat species in Madidi National Park and Natural Area of Integrated Management, in January of this year, the Identidad Madidi expedition, under the leadership of WCS and the Alcide d 'Orbigny Natural History Museum, with the endorsement of the Program for the Conservation of Bats of Bolivia (PCMB), nominated Madidi to be recognized as an Area of Importance for the Conservation of Bats (AICOM) by the Latin America and Caribbean Network for the Conservation of Bats (RELCOM), which was officially communicated last March.
From 2015 to 2017, the Identidad Madidi scientific expedition visited 15 study sites, covering an altitudinal gradient of more than 5,100 meters, registering 1,408 new species of plants, butterflies and vertebrates. The bat research was carried out by researchers from the Alcide d'Orbigny Natural History Museum and WCS resulting in 34 new records reported for Madidi, including four new species for Bolivia and at least two new species for science, contributing to an increase in the number of bat species in Madidi Park to more than 100. This species richness represents 72.5% of bats registered in Bolivia so far. Several of these species are important for conservation due to their rarity and endemism, and their threat situation.
Among the most outstanding species of bats in Madidi, by their degree of threat and important ecological roles, we can mention the nectar feeding bats Anoura cultrata and Anoura fistulata, the latter species has only been reported in Madidi so far, in addition to the hairy-legged blood feeding bat Diphylla ecaudata, and a species that represents a new record for the country, Koepcke´s hairy-nosed bat Gardnerycteris koepckeae, previously considered endemic to Peru and classified as Critically Endangered (CR). The Dinell's small evening bat, Myotis dinellii, is a species that has been recorded in very few occasions and is therefore considered rare. Other bat species categorized as Vulnerable, according to the Red List of Vertebrates of Bolivia (Aguirre & Tarifa, 2009), are Glyphonycteris daviesi, Trinycteris nicefori and Vampyrum spectrum, all three are strongly affected by the indiscriminate timber extraction that leads to fragmentation and destruction of their forest habitat.
Madidi is part of the most important hotspots on the planet, the tropical Andes, it includes an important representation of humid montane forests, habitats preferred by many species of bats that are highly vulnerable to fragmentation and to the effects of climate change. Similarly, the undisturbed primary forests are indispensable for bat communities distributed in the lowlands, ecosystems that are in constant decline. The official recognition of Madidi as a new Area of Importance for the Conservation of Bats (AICOM) in the country, among other nine, and representing the first one for La Paz department, is a crucial step to continue protecting intact forests and to ensure healthy communities of bats in Bolivia.