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Bats doing a midnight flit

31 March 2006

Bats doing a midnight flit on the dark side of the moon

Photos: Jacqui McIntosh/DOC.

Bats from last year’s transfer are still returning to roost in the enclosure.

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It’s the dark side of the moon tonight, the perfect time for the newest intake of bats to Kapiti Island to venture out into the wild.

In the wee small hours of darkness, three short tailed bats born in captivity at Pukaha Mount Bruce in January, will be released into the forest from the enclosure in which they have been kept on the island for the past six weeks.

They will join at least nine bats transferred to the island last year in a ground breaking project to save a threatened colony of bats in the Tararuas from possible extinction, by establishing another population.

Pregnant bats are being taken from the colony to Pukaha Mount Bruce to give birth. When they are old enough to start flying, the bat pups are taken to Kapiti Island while their mums are returned to Tararua Forest Park. The pups are kept in an enclosure on the island and fed on such delicacies as meal worms, wax worms, moths and honey water while they acclimatise to their new surroundings and develop a homing instinct to the island.

One of the short tailed bats being released onto Kapiti Island tonight

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DOC biodiversity technical support officer and project leader Lynn Adams said the bats had adapted well to their diet and were in good condition and ready to fend for themselves in the wild.

This is the second year of the translocation project. It will be assessed after three years.

Believed to be the last remaining population of short-tailed bats in the south of the North Island, the Tararua Forest Park colony of around 200 bats had been isolated from other surviving bat populations for about 90,000. As a result the bats are genetically distinct from other short-tailed bat populations. They are now thought to be under siege from predators such as ship rats and stoats and at risk of extinction.

When a thriving population is established on Kapiti Island, attempts may be made to transfer bats back to other sites in the lower North Island.

Short-tailed bats aid the pollination of native plants and establish their roosts in tree cavities deep in the forest’s oldest trees. Bats are New Zealand’s only terrestrial mammals.

ENDS


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