Wellington's short-tailed bat feared extinct
As the Government prepares to reveal its new strategy for saving our threatened species, the Wellington region may have lost its own short-tailed bat to extinction.
Forest and Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell said specialised listening equipment monitoring the bats in the Tararua Ranges had detected no conclusive recordings of them for months.
But Department Of Conservation (Doc) acting operations manager for Wairarapa, Briggs Pilkington, was not quite ready to call the population extinct, saying two possible recordings captured recently in a neighbouring catchment suggested they may have moved.
The bats are usually found in the Waiohine Valley. Pilkington said the limited range of listening stations meant locating new living sites was like "looking for a needle in a haystack".
Predation and food scarcity may have triggered a migration, he said.
"The department is doing all we can to provide the best support for this population."
Forest and Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell was not so sure the bat colony had simply migrated.
"Like Doc we would be very keen to think they had just moved, but at the moment that's not looking likely."
The short-tailed bat was important because it was New Zealand's only endemic land mammal, and was important for pollinating many plants on the forest floor and in the canopy, Hackwell said.
The bats have endured a precarious past having not been seen in the Tararua Forest Park for decades before a small population was rediscovered in 1999, in the Waiohine Valley.
Hackwell said Wellington's colony had been separated from the rest of the country for up to 90,000 years, and was likely genetically distinct.
Believed to be the last remaining population of short-tailed bats in the south of the North Island, there were estimated to be 300 in the colony, which was under threat from predators.
Forest and Bird spokeswoman Megan Hubscher said said pigs may have been harming the bat's food supply by rutting up forest ground where they fed.
Meanwhile, the Queen Elizabeth II Trust has kicked off its 40th-anniversary celebrations with the launch of a fund to help land owners cope with increasing pressure from climate change, foreign predators, pests and diseases.
Since of the creation of the QEII Trust 40 years ago an average two pieces of land have been put into covenant every week, protecting about 180,000 hectares
The fund will start at $150,000 a year, but QEII Trust chief executive Mike Jebson said this amount was modest compared to the need.
Successful applicants of the new fund may receive up to 50 per cent of the total costs of their projects, up to a maximum of $20,000.