Legislation designating the ōpe‘ape‘a or Hawaiian hoary bat (Lasiurus cinerus semotusas the official state land mammal “flew through the Senate, glided through the House of Representatives, and will land on Governor Ige’s desk in the attic of the Capitol Building for his signature” Wednesday afternoon.

That’s according to a press release from the Senate Minority Research Office.

“The ōpe‘ape‘a will join the pulelehua or Kamehameha butterfly (insect), nene goose (bird), humpback whale (marine mammal), monk seal (mammal) and humuhumunukunukuapuaa (fish) to take its rightful place in the elite club of official Hawaii state animals,” the release explains.

State Sen. Sam Slom, the only Republican in the Senate, has championed the designation for years and finally got enough people to agree with him.

Hawaiian hoary bat

The Hawaiian hoary bat.

Flickr: Forest and Kim Starr

“The ōpe‘ape‘a is worthy of the title of state land mammal because it has been here for so long, and faithfully provides free pest control services to us all,” says Slom. “Most importantly, this bipartisan effort to elevate the bat’s status to state land mammal will increase awareness of the environmental issues affecting its survival.”

Here are some bat facts:

  • The ōpe‘ape‘a is Hawaii’s only native land mammal, a subspecies found only in Hawai. Fossils reveal its presence in Hawaii as early as 10,000 years ago.
  • The ōpe‘ape‘a is nocturnal, though no evidence of vampirical activity has been reported. 
  • The ōpe‘ape‘a is insectivorous and eats mosquitoes, moths, beetles, termites, flies and other insects. A single Hawaiian hoary bat can consume 40 percent of its body weight in bugs in a single night.   
  • The ōpe‘ape‘a is listed as an endangered species by the federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and by the state. Deforestation and collision with man-made structures like wind turbines and barbed wire fences pose a threat to the population.
  • The ōpe‘ape‘a  uses echolocation to hunt: It creates ultrasonic pulses in its throat and emits the pulses through its mouth or nose, which bounces off insect prey, transmitting the location of the prey to the bat.
  • The ōpe‘ape‘a can fly up to 60 miles per hour and is one of the only animals capable of sustained flight. 

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