Bat breeding breakthrough

21:16, Feb 06 2014
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BAT FAN: One of the tiny short-tailed bats, or pekapeka, which were born in mid-November.

Auckland Zoo has successfully bred and reared lesser short-tailed bat twins, the first time the threatened New Zealand species has been bred and hand-reared in a zoo.

The tiny short-tailed bats, or pekapeka, a male and a female born in mid-November weighing just 4 grams, are now a healthy adult weight of about 14 grams.

New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine clinical services co-ordinator Mikaylie Wilson said the mother bat had earlier given birth to twins that did not survive.

"From this experience, we knew she wasn't able to cope with raising two, so the decision was made to pull the first twin at two days, and then at two weeks, the second pup was failing to thrive so we pulled it as well," she said.

The bats were cared for in a portable incubator, and needed feeding every four hours.

Zookeeper Debs Searchfield, who helped with the caring, said it had been a great success.

"Gaining more husbandry skills, hands-on techniques and knowledge will hopefully help the future of this species and other bats in recovery programmes," Searchfield said.

The bats' parents are descendants of a population from the Tararua Ranges in the lower North Island. Auckland's Zoo's bats are the only lesser short-tailed bats in captivity.