White Nose Syndrome Causes Conservationists to Build Artificial ‘Bat Cave’

‘White nose syndrome’ is wiping out bat populations in North America with little sign of slowing down.
To save bats from white nose syndrome, conservationists are building an artificial bat cave. (Photo: Tristan Savatier/Getty Images)
Sep 23, 2012· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

White nose syndrome” is a fungal-based ailment that’s killed off almost seven million North American bats since it was first detected in 2006, The Guardian reports. Conservationists in Tennessee are trying to protect the remaining bat populations by building an artificial “bat cave,” which they hope will serve as a bunker, protecting the creatures from further infestation of white nose syndrome.

The cave is being constructed underground at the Nature Conservancy in Tennessee. The state saw some disturbing results of its already-endangered bat populations after white nose syndrome arrived there in March.

"We were concerned we could lose a couple of species in a year or two," explained Cory Holliday, the agency’s cave expert.

According to the Conservancy, this is the world's first man-made cave for bats, and it's being built to mimic the cold, damp environment of natural caves. This will allow the creatures to hibernate safely in the winter.

Bats are integral, not only to our ecosystem, but to our agricultural industry. They eat their weight in mosquitos and other insects every day, saving American agriculture almost $4 billion every year, according to the Nature Conservancy’s website.

White nose syndrome is thought to have been brought over from Europe, on the soles of tourists’ hiking boots. Conservationists are hoping they’ll effectively erect a controlled fungus-free environment for the creatures, which will be decontaminated annually.

Holliday explains the fungus is “easily controllable in a controlled environment. There are lots of things that kill this fungus. But nothing that kills the white nose syndrome could be used in a natural cave environment because it would kill everything else and be detrimental to the ecosystem."

The cave’s construction was started in late August and is expected to be fully functional by the end of this month.

What other less than cuddly species do you wish would receive this kind of conservation effort? Let us know in the Comments.