Students learn from bat man
Hamilton’s bat population has some new advocates, after a group of primary school students vowed to protect them.
Students from St. Peter Chanel School took a tour of Hamilton Gardens last week with local bat advocate Gerry Kelly. The visit marked the end of a term-long project learning about endangered pekapeka-tou-roa/long-tailed bats.
Mr Kelly is part of Hamilton City Council’s parks team and has a passion for protecting Hamilton’s long-tailed bat population which make their home in many of the city’s gullies and parks.
“We’re lucky enough to have a bat population in the city and we must do all we can to help protect it," he says. "As well as looking after their natural environment, we can also build and install artificial bat roosts to give them another opportunity to rest. These houses are experimental in New Zealand and are showing good results in Hamilton, with some bats using them.”
Mr Kelly works alongside various community organisations, including Project Echo, to build bat boxes, monitor bat movements and educate the community about the elusive creatures.
Nine-year-old Kate was the driving force behind the visit after hearing some of the bat boxes would be at the recent Your Neighbourhood event at Minogue Park.
“I went to talk to Gerry at the park the other weekend and he showed us how to make bat boxes and how bats use them to sleep. We asked him to come and talk to our class and luckily, he said “yes”. It’s really cool that we can find out where the bats live too!”
Growth Programmes Manager Karen Saunders was also on hand to talk to the students about how the Council is making sure bats are looked after in the new Peacocke neighbourhood, south-west of the city.
“Hamilton is one of the only urban environments in the country where long-tailed bats live. That’s really special.
“Through the Peacocke programme, we’re making Hamilton’s biggest-ever environmental investment in a new growth area. A big part of this work is research into local bat populations and behaviour, which has already added new information to help us better understand our native pekapeka,” she says.
“We want to create a community that also enhances the population of native bats. It’s great to see our kids taking an interest in this work.”
Waikato Museum runs popular bat tours several times a year.