U.S. federal law enforcement officers from a number of agencies have raided five homes on the Northern Marianas island of Rota in connection with the recent mass slaughter of endangered Marianas fruit bats, the Saipan Tribune reports.
An estimated 190 mammals were killed, which officials say nearly decimates two of the three known fruit bat colonies on Rota, the southernmost island in the Northern Marianas chain.
“We are urging anyone with information about the poaching of these rare animals to please come forward. The future of an entire species may depend on it,” said Paul Chang, special agent in charge of law enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region.
The slaughter of the fruit bat colonies is thought to have taken place this past Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. Northern Marianas Fish and Wildlife officers discovered remains of dead bats and .410 and 12 gauge shotgun shells at the two sites.
Other agencies involved in the investigation include the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency; National Marine Fisheries Service; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; U.S. Coast Guard; U.S. Marshals, and the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Leonardo M. Rapadas, United States Attorney, also provided assistance.