The United States Mint is selling a limited-run of collectible quarters featuring fruit bats in honor of the National Park of American Samoa during the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. Mint is showing off designs from its “America the Beautiful” line of currency. The program, begun in 2010, depicts “national parks” and other sites. 2020 features five new designs, highlighting American Samoa, Connecticut, Kansas, Vermont, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
While most of the designs are predictably pastoral, the American Samoa quarter is drawing particular interest. It depicts a mother and pup fruit bat, commemorating the National Park of American Samoa. In addition to its obvious appeal, it is also meant to shine a spotlight on the threatened creatures. As described:
The reverse (tails) design depicts a Samoan fruit bat mother hanging in a tree with her pup. The image evokes the remarkable care and energy that this species puts into their offspring,” said the U.S. Mint. “The design is intended to promote awareness to the species’ threatened status due to habitat loss and commercial hunting.
The territory of American Samoa is almost entirely covered in lush tropical rainforest. As described on the official National Park Service site:
Located some 2,600 miles southwest of Hawai’i, this is one of the most remote national park’s in the United States. You will not find the usual facilities of most national parks. Instead, with a bit of the explorer’s spirit, you will discover secluded villages, rare plants and animals, coral sand beaches, and vistas of land and sea.
The national park includes sections of three islands—Tutuila, Ta’ū, and Ofu. Almost all of the land area of these volcanic islands—from the mountaintops to the coast—is tropical rainforest. About 4,000 acres of the national park is underwater, offshore from all three islands.
The park “preserves the only mixed-species paleotropical rainforest in the United States,” where three distinct species of fruit bats make their home. Fruit bats are especially nurturing, sometimes caring for their pups all the way until adulthood.
Ironically, several reports have blamed bats butchered in Wuhan, China, as the source of the current coronavirus outbreak. In January, AFP reported studies pointed to the origin of COVID-19 in bats:
Bats being the native host of the Wuhan CoV (coronavirus) would be the logical and convenient reasoning, though it remains likely there was intermediate host(s) in the transmission cascade from bats to humans.
In February, Dr. Danielle Anderson, an Australian virologist, told NBC News she was “90% confident that that the new coronavirus came from bats.”