Dead bats in Pitve, July 2019

Two dead bats lying close together on their doorstep were a sad surprise which greeted a couple in Pitve on the morning of July 24th 2019.

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

Experienced veterinarian Susan Corning looked over the poor distorted creatures and could see no sign of external wounds. The death of a pair of bats with no obvious evidence of injury is unusual.

Dead bat in Pitve. Photo courtesy of Susan Corning and Andrew Hilton

This led Susan to the suspicion that the bats might have died from poison. Just five days previously, in the early hours of Friday July 19th, the local authorites had performed the second 'fogging' action of the season, spraying the streets  throughout the Jelsa Council region with pyrethroid poison. Was this a coincidence? As a scientist, Susan was suspicious that the two events might be connected. Without going to the trouble and expense of an autopsy, the cause of death cannot be certain. But as bats eat insects, including mosquitoes, that might have been a source of ingestion. The authorities claim that the pyrethroid used, Cipex 10E, is 'harmless to warm-blooded creatures'. This is untrue. It is well established that the active ingredient of Cipex, Cypermethrin, can be fatal to cats. It is probably also toxic to dogs in high concentration, as well as being harmful to humans*. Its action is on the nervous system. If it does not kill the target insects outright, it causes frenetic hyperactivity. On 14th June 2018, for instance, the morning following the 'fogging' action through Pitve, wasps were still busy around a nest they had built right by the road, which had inevitably been sprayed with the cocktail of poisons used that year. Their numbers were reduced from the previous day, and the activity of the survivors was haphazard. It looked as if the poor souls were trying to do their best, against the odds.

Wasp nest activity the day after being sprayed with insecticide. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

So, after the fogging actions,  poisoned insects will still be flying about to be eaten by birds, bats and other insects, causing a trail of collateral damage. Details of individual cases like these bat deaths may be open to question. There is no doubt that the poisons inflicted on the environment by the fogging actions are contributing to a devastating loss of biodiversity on Hvar. The combined effects of the pesticides used by the local auithorities and those used by individual farmers and gardeners are causing ecological disaster. Bats are among those once-plentiful creatures whose numbers have declined drastically.

Finding dead wildlife is not what people come to Dalmatia for. On the contrary, they expect a clean, unpolluted natural environment, filled with nature's exquisite creatures. The only way to fulfil their wish is for the island to 'go organic'!

© Vivian Grisogono 2019. 

With thanks to Susan and Andy for sharing the sad information

*Note: See our article on the adverse effects of pesticides for more details about the harmful effects of cypermethrin. 

 

 

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