Bats come on back

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By LUCY WORMALD

Things have gone a bit batty in Glenorchy.

New Zealand’s only native land mammal, the long-tailed bat, or pekapeka, has made a
home in the Dart and Rees Valleys.

Recent monitoring work by Department of Conservation (DoC) has confirmed populations of the nocturnal animals are slowly but surely increasing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DoC ranger Sandra Barnaba, who oversaw the latest survey in November, says a group of dedicated locals has been assist ing the project for several years.

‘‘It is word of mouth, very much … some of them [locals] live in town and some live in the Rees Valley and they are quite interested in what’s happening in their backyard.’’

The volunteers gather at dusk to walk sections of road in the two valleys, carrying bat
detector units to gauge how populations are faring.

Barnaba says the bats use echolocation to navigate around obstacles and find their prey in the dark — continuously ‘‘shouting’’ and using the returning echo to ‘‘see’’ objects in their path.

The team uses the bat detectors to convert the shouting into audible lower frequency noises human can hear.

‘‘It’s is very exciting to hear them as well as see them.

‘‘You walk for a kilometre and pick up all the noises that come through the bat detector
… sounds like wings flapping but it’s actually the echolocations and it’s very exciting every time you hear that.’’

More than 20 years of data on the bat population has been collated, the first survey running in 1995, and the latest data paints a positive picture for pekapeka.

‘‘It does show a very slight increase, a weak upward trend in bat activity,’’ Barnaba says.

Without predator control efforts in the area, populations would likely have declined in
recent years.

‘‘Knowing bats are present here really reinforces enthusiasm for predator control locally.

‘‘They are endangered … they live in small pockets or small areas, so we’re very privileged to have it in our backyard and I think we have to make sure we look after them.’’

lucy.wormald@scene.co.nz