Monorail seen as threat to bats

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 09/04/2014

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A population of critically endangered bats in Fiordland could be wiped out if a multi-million-dollar monorail project gets the go ahead from the Government, a group opposing the development says.

Save Fiordland spokesman Bill Jarvie said the group commissioned a small-scale survey to confirm the presence of a population of the critically endangered South Island long-tailed bat in the path of the Fiordland monorail.

The bat study confirmed the presence of a resident population roosting within beech forest next to the Upukerora River within the Snowdon Forest Conservation Area, he said.

There are only two other known populations in Fiordland.

The Department of Conservation listed the species as "nationally critical" - one step away from extinction, Jarvie said.

"It sits alongside kakapo and takahe but without the profile these poster species have."

DOC has said that predation, habitat destruction, and roost disturbance were the factors that could result in this species of New Zealand's only land mammal gone from our forests within the next few decades, he said.

Long-tailed bats could not be translocated to island sanctuaries like endangered bird species.

"Each bat population is dependent on its own forest home where specific tree roosts are used on a rotational basis," he said.

"The wide forest clearance required for the construction and safe operation of the monorail and its permanent road would likely see the felling of vital roosting trees throughout the bats' home range."

Save Fiordland spokeswoman Daphne Taylor said the study, done by Wildlife Acoustics, found the loss of only a few breeding females would have a significant effect on a small critically endangered population.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith is still waiting for an independent financial viability report for the project before announcing his decision whether to approve or decline the monorail concession.

neil.ratley@stl.co.nz

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