Pupils contribute to bat mapping

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RICHARD.DAVISON@nullalliedpress.co.nz

The Catlins could soon become the ‘‘Batlins’’, thanks to the efforts of the area’s ecofriendly young residents.

The Catlins Bats on the Map project was identified as one of several highlights of the Forest & Bird South Otago year during its recent annual meeting.

Launched in May last year under a one-year, $20,000 Government grant, Forest & Bird member Catriona Gower was due to conclude the project this winter.

However, due to the intervention of Covid-19, it will now run until December — something of a blessing in disguise, Ms Gower said.

‘‘It gives us another part season to extend into and, since bat monitoring could still take place during lockdown, we’ll have 18 months of data rather than 12.’’

A large portion of the funding was used to buy high sensitivity recording bat monitors, which children from Tahakopa and The Catlins Area schools had been using to spot the critically endangered long-tailed bat.

Although the monitoring had not revealed hard data on bat numbers in the Catlins, it had helped identify areas of greater activity, which would be targeted during trap›and› release tagging operations this summer, Ms Gower said.

‘‘I can’t praise the schools and children enough for throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the project.

‘‘Seeing the thrill on their faces when they see the spectrometer light up to show a bat’s ultrasound calls is just brilliant.’’

She said the children and wider community would be brought into November’s trapping activities.

‘‘We’re hoping the children can share some of what they’ve learnt about bats during the Bats on the Map project with other community members, and make this area a real focus for study of the species.’’

Project elements had been tailored according to age group, Ms Gower said.

‘‘We’ve had some of the younger classes designing logos, there’s been video›making, a bat camp, and older classes looking into media science reporting and bat diseases.’’

She hoped the project would allow for improved conservation efforts for the species.

‘‘At present, we don’t know exactly where they roost. We hope the tag and trace will allow us a closer peek into their lives and, consequently, for conservation of those habitats.

‘‘And hopefully some of these children will continue to be a part of that, having developed a lifelong love of their beautiful Catlins environment.’’