A Northern Marianas senator admitted in federal court to smuggling endangered fruit bats, Pacific Daily News (http://ow.ly/nffrA ) reported Tuesday.Juan Manglona Ayuyu, a senator in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Legislature who represents Rota, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Saipan to conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.
He admits conspiring with his legislative assistant to transport eight federally protected Mariana fruit bats on a Freedom Air Flight from Rota to Saipan in 2010. He also admits asking the assistant, Ryan James Inos Manglona, to lie to a grand jury about their involvement, after the bats were discovered by the Transportation Security Administration.
The assistant has previously pleaded guilty to perjury and conspiracy.
According to a plea agreement, Ayuyu faces a sentence of about three years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 8.
The bat is called "fanihi" in Chamorro, a language spoken in Guam and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. The bat gets its name from favoring fruits such as papaya, figs and breadfruit.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, recent counts found less than 50 of the bats in Guam. The most recent count in the Marianas in 2000 found about 4,500 of the bats.
The agency says Fanihi have been used as food since humans first arrived on the island and that eating them is a cultural tradition. Hunting bats has been illegal under local law in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands since the 1970s.