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Aotearoa and Bats

 

peka patu

Bats are our only native land mammal and they play an important role in the ecosystem. Before humans arrived, bats were thought to roost in colonies numbering in the hundreds and thousands.

In te Reo Maaori, bats are called pekapeka and were revered as nocturnal ancestral spirits of the forest.

 

Doing things the Kiwi way – being extra versatile!

Two species of bat call New Zealand home – the long-tailed bat and the lesser short-tailed bat.

We are very lucky to have any bats at all. It was much too windy and cool in Zealandia for a lot of creatures, but not bats. Bats could live safely in New Zealand’s forests without any mammalian predators, enjoying the habitat usually taken up by rodents like mice and squirrels found in other countries.

Short-tailed bats spend lots of time on the ground looking for food, which makes them the most terrestrial of all bats. These bats also have a very important job to do – pollinating our native plants and trees, like our special and endangered parasitic flower, Dactylanthus, or “woodrose”.

Long-tailed bats are insectivores – they love to eat yummy bugs. They can even catch a scrumptious crunchy meal in flight! Every night these tiny bats do a great service to us by eating tons of flies, mosquitoes and moths – you can think of it as natural insect control!

Long tailed bat Colin ODonnell

Long-tailed bat Colin O'Donnell

Photographer JL Kendrick. Image courtesy of DOC

Photographer JL Kendrick. Image courtesy of DOC

Long tailed bat CREDIT Stuart Parsons

Long tailed bat CREDIT Stuart Parsons

 

Secret Bats

Until recently, not many people knew about bats in Hamilton. Now, thanks to the work of Project Echo and friends, more people know about these secretive animals that live in our backyard. Hamilton’s unique landscape with the river running through it and gullies connecting luscious parks and gardens, makes it a great home for bats.

Long-tailed bats really love big trees which provide ideal roosting sites.  The river provides them with water and food, since there are certainly a lot of flies and mosquitoes for them on the river banks. Bats don’t need a map. They can travel up to 10 kilometres each night looking for food, and the river acts as a pathway connecting one place to another!

Did you know – Our bats are in danger! Pest animals such as possums, stoats and rats sniff out bats in their roosting places. They are also in danger of losing homes and getting hurt when trees are chopped down. It is important to CHECK for bats first before taking to a tree with a chainsaw!

Eco Echo: Sustaining the future of Hamilton's Long-tailed bats.