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Animal expert explains why tequila could become a thing of the past: 'If we don't get our act together'

"You might never be able to drink tequila again."

"You might never be able to drink tequila again."

Photo Credit: TikTok

Tequila could soon be another casualty of the world's biodiversity crisis because of excessive farming threatening the agave plant's only pollinator — bats.

In a viral TikTok video, animal expert Mamadou, mndiaye_97 (@mndiaye_97), explains the role that the Mexican long-nosed bat plays in pollinating agave, tequila's base ingredient.

@mndiaye_97 Is there an animal with a worse pr team? #nature#animals#moreyouknow#learnontiktok ♬ Lo-fi hip hop - NAO-K

Also known as the "tequila bat," Mexican long-nosed bats enjoy a synchronous relationship with agave. 

Pregnant bats feed on the plant's nectar to fuel their migration north from central Mexico to the southwest United States, where they give birth to their pup. When they feed on the nectar, the bats also pick up the agave's pollen and distribute it as they travel.

However, according to the video, tequila's popularity has led farmers to cut down agave stalks before the plant has reproduced. This means less nectar for the bats, fewer chances for pollination, and reduced genetic diversity for the agave. 

"You might never be able to drink tequila again," he says in the video, "if we don't get our act together."

Mexican long-nosed bats pollinate more than 50 plant species in the southwest, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These include avocados, bananas, mangoes, and cocoa — as Mamadou points out, without the pollinating bats, chocolate would be a thing of the past. 

Yet a combination of rising temperatures, habitat loss, and lack of food means that this crucial bat species is now endangered. 

To help reverse its decline, the Fish and Wildlife Service published a draft recovery plan last year, which includes steps like protecting critical roosts, restoring agave habitats, and environmental education.

Consumers can do their bit to help, too. Mamadou advises drinking "bat-safe" tequila, where at least 5% of the agave is left to flower when it is cultivated for tequila. 

You can look out for the Bat Friendly™ label on bottles of tequila, as well as mezcals and raicillas, in shops.

Other TikTokers were surprised to learn about these underrated but incredibly valuable pollinators, who work indigenously alongside more commonly known pollinating insects like bees and butterflies

"How did I not know bats are pollinators?" one wrote.

"Bats are probably the most under-appreciated animals in the entire kingdom!" said another.

"I keep telling my friends and family that we NEED bats! Not all eat insects!" another added. 

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