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Bat search on Maungatautari is a prelude to translocation

21/01/2009 22:33:44

The New Zealand short tailed bat:

• Is unique in the bat world in being able to fold their wing membranes away under special protective folds along their ‘arms', which enables them to hunt for food on the ground and under leaf litter.
• It is probably the most omnivorous bat in the world; eating invertebrates, fruits and nectar (it has a ‘brush tongue' similar to a tui).
• It is one of the very few ‘lek' breeding species of bats in the world; where the males congregate in ‘arenas' and compete for the attention of passing females by singing from holes in trees. The Pavarottis among them attract the most females and produce the most offspring.
• Weighs 11-16 grams with a wingspan 25-28 cm and can fly up to 60km per hour.
• Roosts in hollows (e.g. in trees or caves).
• The young are called pups.

Are there any short tailed bats on Maungatautari? That's the question Maungatautari Trust will try and answer this summer.

In mid December several weatherproof bat sonar recorders, complete with a digital memory card and enough battery power for several days recording, were placed across the mountain close to tawari trees, which are currently producing nectar, and other likely bat flight paths. Each box was set ready to record the ultrasonic sounds of the forest at night which may include the distinctive very high-pitched echo-location of the short tailed bat.

Trust ecologist Chris Smuts-Kennedy will review the many hours of recordings collected during December and January. The exercise is a necessary prerequisite to any future short tailed bat translocations.

"Before we can translocate any species onto the mountain we check to see if there are any surviving populations. A remnant population could be genetically distinct which would be fantastic news and, in the case of short tailed bats, a rare find. We would then want to look carefully at the existing gene pool before we considered adding any ‘new' bats," said Trust ecologist Chris Smuts-Kennedy.

Photo by Phil Brown is of Trust ecologist Chris Smuts-Kennedy preparing the sound equipment.

Photo by Phil Brown is of Trust ecologist Chris Smuts-Kennedy preparing the sound equipment.

"If we don't find any short tailed bats we will begin a translocation proposal to bring them to the mountain. If, on the other hand, we find some it will be incredibly exciting."

"In 1977 the New Zealand Wildlife Service received a possible report of a short tailed bat on Maungatautari, but that was not followed up or verified as very few people were working on bats in New Zealand in those days."

New Zealand bats - just 2 species
There are only two species of bat left in New Zealand - the long tailed and the lesser short tailed. The greater short tailed bat is thought to be extinct.

Introduced predators such as rats, cats and stoats are thought to be the main reason for the decline in bat numbers.

More about Maungatatauri

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