ECO HVAR: AIMS AND ACTIVITIES OF THE CHARITY

bee rasketa blossom

Environment

Eco Hvar's aims for environmental protection, and related articles.

Read more...

maria lidija

Health

Eco Hvar's ideas for encouraging positive health, plus related articles

Read more...

jackie appeal

Animals

Eco Hvar's aims for protecting animals and improving animal welfare, plus related articles

Read more...

SOS: Bats Gone Missing!

Published in Nature Watch

Eco Hvar is not alone in being worried that bats are increasingly rare on Hvar Island.

Pipistrellus nathusii Pipistrellus nathusii Croatian Natural History Museum / Hrvatski prirodoslovni muzej

Once, not so long ago, they were plentiful. During the balmy summer evenings they would stream around any source of light, big or small, in the hunt for insects to feed on. I remember them milling purposefully around from my earliest days in Pitve over 25 years ago. In September 1993 there was one sleeping peacefully hanging from a beam in the wine-cellar. A friend remarked that having a bat on one's premises brought good luck to the house. This optimistic belief is not unique to Dalmatia. In traditional Chinese culture bats represent good fortune and blessings.

Colony, pipistrelli kuhlii. Photo courtesy of the Croatian Natural History Museum

In the last few years, bats have been less and less visible. In Pitve in 2016 I saw no more than a handful, and people in other places around the island have also reported seeing very few, if any bats, where once they were numerous.

Bats belong to the order Chiroptera, and are the only mammals capable of flying. There are over 1100 different types of bat in the world, making them the second largest group of mammals, after rodents. In Croatia there are 35 types, belonging to eleven families. Most of them feed on insects, while one, the rare giant noctule bat (Nyctalus lasiopterus) sometimes also catches smaller birds, while the long-fingered bat (Myotis capaccinii) can catch small fish.

Nyctalus noctula. Photo courtesy of the Croatian Natural History Museum

In Croatia Dr. Igor Pavlinić, Custodian of the Croatian Natural History Museum in Zagreb, has been involved in the study and protection of bats for many years. He is conducting a long-term project monitoring a colony of bats at Šćuza, including proposals for their protection. He has demonstrated how bats not only make their homes in woodlands, but also in the most diverse of places, from caverns, caves, abandoned mines and gaps in stones (mostly for winter hibernation), to loft spaces in houses and churches, chimneys, as well as spaces in the walls of bridges. Several colonies on Hvar bore this out. For example, over many years European free-tailed bats (Tadarida teniotis) nested in the belfry of the Church of Our Lady of Health above Jelsa. Sadly, following lengthy renovation works in the past few years, the bats disappeared and never returned.

Our Lady of Health, Jelsa, once a haven for bats. Photo Mirko Crnčević

Bats are said to be an 'index of health' in any given place. They do a good job, actually an essential service for human comfort. One bat can devour between 500 and 1,000 mosquitoes per hour; in the course if a night, it can consume prey equalling about one third of its body mass. Is it a coincidence that as bat numbers have fallen over the last few years, mosquitoes have become more and more of a problem, despite ever-fiercer desperate attempts to eradicate them with chemical poison sprays?

Bats are among the oldest surviving mammals, whose development probably began at the time when dinosaurs dominated the world. The evolution of bats gives rise to some of the most intriguing questions within the history of the evolution of today's mammals. The only thing the majority of scientists agree on is that the bat's early ancestor was a type of nocturnal insect-eating mammal which lived in trees. The latest molecular research has shown that the ape (homininoidea) arose in a later development from a common ancestor, providing a link to humans.

Eptesicus serotinus. Photo courtesy of the Croatian Natural History Museum

Eptesicus serotinus. Photo courtesy of the Croatian Natural History Museum

The decline of bats on Hvar is, sadly, not unique. Bats are under threat around the globe, some types are close to extinction. The Croatian State Institute for Nature Protection identifies several factors as potential causes of bat decline (brochure in Croatian):

1. LOSS OF HABITAT, including excessive felling of old established trees; adapting caves as tourist attractions; flooding of caves; renovation of old buildings without due care for bats' needs

2. LOSS OF NATURAL HUNTING GROUNDS

3. POISONOUS CHEMICAL TREATMENTS OF WOODEN RAFTERS

4. PESTICIDE USE

5. REDUCTION OF INSECTS (often through use of insecticides, and industrial-scale agriculture)

6. TOURISM IN CAVES

7. DISRUPTION TO NESTS AND WINTER COLONIES

8. WINDFARMS

9. DRYING UP OF SURFACE WATERS

10. POLLUTION OF WATER SOURCES

A monograph by I. Pavlinić published by the Natural History-Mathematics Faculty at the University of Zagreb places the blame for the bat decline squarely on inappropriate, careless human activity (article in Croatian).

'Man's activites to blame for bat decline'

Bats are strictly protected in Croatia, as in other European countries. According to the Law on the Protection of Nature (Zakon o zaštiti prirode - in Croatian), there are fines up to 200,000 kunas for disturbing, capturing, wounding or killing bats, and for damaging or destroying their habitats. There is also a separate fine of 1,000 to 4,000 kunas for each killed bat. Apart from the national law, since 2000 Croatia has also been party to the international agreement for the protection and conservation of European bats, entitled UNEP / EUROBATS. In the Sixth National Report on ther Implementation of the Agreement covering 2010 to 2014, the measures being undertaken in Croatia to monitor and protect bats were described. Most of the activity is on the mainland. Toxic timber treatments were given as a subject of special concern, but it seems there has been little specific study on the effects of pesticide use.

A single pipistrellus kuhlii. Photo courtesy of the Croatian Natural History Museum

The law takes into account deliberate and wilful damage caused to bats, but there is little in the way of an adequate system of control to prevent the harm done through pesticide use, building works and renovations, tourist developments and tree-felling. Bats can live for over 30 years, but they reproduce slowly, so any deaths of young bats in a colony causes a rapid decline in numbers. Protection measures are urgently needed. Every local council should initiate projects to provide adequate habitats for bats. Youngsters should be encouraged to observe bats and record their numbers, to raise awareness at local level.

We need these important and fascinating creatures. Their insect-eating capacities are an invaluable service to human health. With due effort and care, we can re-create the conditions which allow bats to thrive. They will repay the favour with infinite interest.

© Mirko Crnčević and Vivian Grisogono 2017

A Croatian version of this article by Mirko Crnčević was published in the magazine 'Dobra Kob', issue 184, January 2017, pp 52-55

Media

You are here: Home Nature Watch SOS: Bats Gone Missing!

Eco Environment News feeds

  • New study reveals negative impact of climate change, human activity, acidification and deoxygenation on ocean and its creatures

    The deep ocean and the creatures that live there are facing a desperate future due to food shortages and changing temperatures, according to research exploring the impact of climate change and human activity on the world’s seas.

    The deep ocean plays a critical role in sustaining our fishing and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as well as being home to a huge array of creatures. But the new study reveals that food supplies at the seafloor in the deepest regions of the ocean could fall by up to 55% by 2100, starving the animals and microbes that exist there, while changes in temperature, pH and oxygen levels are also predicted to take their toll on fragile ecosystems.

    Continue reading...

  • Macquarie insists it is committed to renewable energy – but critics say it could invest in fossil fuels if its bid succeeds

    The Australian investment bank on the verge of buying the UK’s publicly owned Green Investment Bank has launched a Westminster charm offensive after parliamentarians of all parties told Theresa May to halt the £2bn sale.

    Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas, the Lib Dems’ Vince Cable and former Tory minister Lord Barker last month warned a sale to Macquarie would put the bank’s green purpose at risk and its most valuable assets, such as large windfarms, could be sold off.

    Continue reading...

  • MPs say ministers are not doing enough to demonstrate how third runway would meet obligations on noise and air quality

    The government is set to “water down” limits on aviation emissions and is shifting targets to meet its pledge to mitigate the environmental impact of expanding Heathrow, MPs have said.

    The cross-party environmental audit committee said ministers were not doing enough to demonstrate a third Heathrow runway could be built without breaching laws on air quality and carbon emissions.

    Continue reading...

  • Researchers will have to deal with attacks from a range of powerful foes in the coming years – and for many, it has already started

    A little less than seven years ago, the climate scientist Michael Mann ambled into his office at Penn State University with a wedge of mail tucked under his arm. As he tore into one of the envelopes, which was hand-addressed to him, white powder tumbled from the folds of the letter. Mann recoiled from the grainy plume and rushed to the bathroom to scrub his hands.

    Fortunately for Mann, the FBI confirmed the powder was cornstarch rather than anthrax. It was perhaps the nadir of the vituperation hurled at Mann by often anonymous critics who accuse him and others of fabricating or exaggerating the dangers of climate change.

    Continue reading...

  • Environmentalists hail ‘landmark moment’ as world’s biggest soft drinks company agrees to set up pilot scheme in Scotland

    Coca-Cola has announced it supports testing a deposit return service for drinks cans and bottles, in a major coup for environment and anti-waste campaigners.

    Executives told an event in Edinburgh on Tuesday evening they agreed with campaigners who were pressing the Scottish government to set up a bottle-return pilot scheme to cut waste and pollution and boost recycling.

    Continue reading...

  • Donald Trump is a deal maker, and there’s a great deal to be made on climate change

    A month into his presidency, Donald Trump already has a minus-8 job approval rating (43% approve, 51% disapprove). Congress has a minus-50 approval rating, and the Republican Party has a minus-14 favorability rating. All are facing widespread protests, marches, and public resistance. Hundreds of concerned constituents have been showing up to town hall events held by Republican Congressmen, like this one with Tom McClintock (R-CA):

    This is the scene out Rep. Tom McClintock's town hall. We just made it inside after pleading with Roseville police. pic.twitter.com/13UaXMvWph

    Continue reading...

  • Exclusive: Leaked documents indicate that the European Union is now preparing a full ban of raw ivory

    The EU is set to ban raw ivory exports from 1 July as it struggles to deal with what was almost certainly another record year of ivory seizures across the continent in 2016.

    Europe sells more raw and carved ivory to the world than anywhere else, feeding a seemingly insatiable appetite for elephant tusks in China and east Asia.

    Continue reading...

  • A sacred Tibetan lake, a crack in the Antarctic ice shelf and deforestation in Cambodia are among images captured by Nasa and the ESA this month

    Yamzho Yumco (Sacred Swan) Lake is one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet. It is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and is highly crenellated with many bays and inlets. The lake is home to the Samding monastery which is headed by a female reincarnation, Samding Dorje Phagmo. The image covers an area of 49.8km by 60km. Aster images map and monitor the changing surface of our planet, such as glacial advances and retreats; potentially active volcanoes; crop stress; cloud morphology and physical properties; wetlands evaluation; thermal pollution monitoring; coral reef degradation; surface temperature mapping of soils and geology; and measuring surface heat balance.

    Continue reading...

  • A complex range of factors is shaping how and why cities adopt renewable energy, from costs to the need for stable power supplies

    As renewable energy projects are rolled out in cities around the world, we spoke to companies and organisations working in the sector to find out what’s happening and what to expect. Here’s what they said.

    Continue reading...

  • Funding response follows UN warnings that 40% of South Sudan’s population are in urgent need, with people already dying from hunger

    New and existing funds provided by the EU and the UK government will be made available to South Sudan following the declaration of famine in the country.

    The UN has warned that about 40% of South Sudan’s population are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and that people are already dying from hunger caused by famine in parts of the country.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds