Let's just talk about bats - seriously

AUDREY MALONE
Last updated 14:13 30/04/2014
juvenile long-tailed bat
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BAT SIGNAL: A team of people set up a bat harps (traps) on D-Urville Island.

juvenile long-tailed bat
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GONE BATTY: A juvenile long-tailed bat which was caught in a harp trap in March.

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After the recent discovery of a colony of the threatened long-tailed bat by Raincliff Stream near Fairlie, Audrey Malone talked to bat enthusiast Ines Stager of Geraldine.

South Canterbury's bats were the hot topic at the fourth National Bat Conference in Rai Valley.

Ines Stager of Geraldine talked about the bats at the Forest & Bird hosted conference which was followed by a field trip to D'Urville Island.

"Their habitat is unique as they live in fragmented rural landscapes."

Stager moved to South Canterbury from Switzerland, where it was common to see bats, as in parts of continental Europe.

Her partner was working at Hanging Rock in the 1990s when he and a friend discovered a population of the bat and Stager was taken to the site to view them. That was when her interest in the long-tailed species began.

However she admits some Kiwis cannot quite fathom her interest in the mammal.

"I'm not sure why people get a bit squirmish about bats, the native bats are harmless, few people would have seen them let alone touched them."

Stager has enjoyed promoting awareness and knowledge of the misunderstood species in New Zealand.

"Yes, I do like bats. They are cool," she said.

The bat (pekapeka) is New Zealand's only native land-based mammal, and South Canterbury is home to one of two species, the long-tailed bat.

The other is the lesser short-tailed bat while a third species, the greater short-tailed bat is believed to be extinct.

South Canterbury is the only known region on the east coast of the South Island that is home to the endemic long-tailed bat. Recent surveys indicate they are rarer than previously thought.

The lesser short-tailed bat, also endangered, is an ancient species unique to New Zealand and is found only at a few scattered sites.

Bats are nocturnal mammals that hibernate during the winter months. They are protected by the Wildlife Act 1953.

However, the long-tailed bat's habitat has become threatened with the clearance of lowland forest.

The increasing wasp population, an insect which has the same habitat and hunts the same food but has much larger populations, is another threat.

SOUTH CANTERBURY HERALD

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- South Canterbury

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