Latin America contains more species of bats than any other continental mass. The top ten countries with the largest number of bat species are in this continent. The region contains fully 1/3 of all bat species in the world, in about 13% of its land surface; more than 380 bat species including six endemic families inhabit the region. Latin America is also suffering from severe ecosystem degradation and limitations in training for conservation. But over the past decade, an important number of professional scientists and conservationists have been trained within the region and abroad, and this worldwide effort is finally bearing fruit. In 2007 11 Latin American countries decided to work together towards designing, planning, and implementing a bat conservation agenda. This in turn gave way to additional interest in other countries, and an impressive group of high-level local professionals got together in 2009 to draft the charter documents that will guide bat conservation and research efforts for the next couple of decades. After much discussion, feedback and input from bat experts from 16 countries, the documents are ready and are beginning to be implemented.
The Latin American Network for Bat Conservation (RELCOM for its Spanish acronym) is up and running, working in more than a dozen countries, has identified five top threats that are being countered in all countries. Habitat loss, Roost destruction and disturbance, Human-bat conflicts and emerging infectious diseases, Indiscriminate use of toxic substances (pesticides, herbicides, etc, and Other emerging threats such as white nose syndrome, unmitigated wind farm developments, and exotic invasive species are the main threats identified by the group. Each threat is then addressed with a specific series of goals, objectives, and indicators of success. The global targets are under way and the entire network is working on some issues, while pairs or trios of neighboring countries are working to reduce or eliminate local threats. Only Europe is working at this continental scale with a similar strategy to protect bats. This model of local empowerment, global partnership, regional input is promising for many other conservation threats around the world.