Geraldine long-tailed bats equipped with transmitters

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It is hoped that two juvenile long-tailed bats/pekapeka-tou-roa – with the help of high-tech equipment – will provide a better understanding of South Canterbury’s bat populations.

The bats were trapped in Talbot Forest last week using a harp trap suspended from trees, with Department of Conservation (DOC) staff working alongside volunteers from the task force from Talbot Forest, to mount a tiny transmitter on the back of each bat.

DOC senior ranger Rob Carson-Iles said they have information on where bats in Talbot Forest roost, but expect the pair’s journey to juveniles “adds to what we know about Geraldine’s bats”.

The tiny mammal caused a stir late last year, making global headlines after its controversial selection as New Zealand’s bird of the year and bird of the year.

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Carson-Iles said the transmitters are very light, which was important because bats “themselves really don’t weigh much.”

“They come in at the princely weight of 6.2 grams.”

A harp trap – like the one used last week – to catch bats for tagging, at Talbot Forest Scenic Reserve, January 2022.

Ines Stager / Stuff

A harp trap – like the one used last week – to catch bats for tagging, at Talbot Forest Scenic Reserve, January 2022.

The bats weighed nine and 9.5g, Carson-Iles said.

He said a soft contact glue, designed to stick catheters to people, was used.

Radio transmitters can be tracked using radio telemetry, which emits a pulse frequency of beats.

The transmitter will gradually detach, falling off the bats within weeks.

“This time of year they stay three to four weeks, less in the spring when they moult.”

Juveniles are probably born in early November and will not grow significantly larger when they reach adulthood, with adult breeding females weighing around 13g.

Anna Porter of the Department of Conservation holds one of the young bats trapped in Geraldine and tagged with a radio transmitter.

Anna Porter / Stuff

Anna Porter of the Department of Conservation holds one of the young bats trapped in Geraldine and tagged with a radio transmitter.

After birth, bats stay with their mother, and then begin to fledge and fly.

At this time of year, from mid-January to the end of January, “mums start to get fed up with teenage bats and they start spending the night alone.”

“It’s a pretty compressed childhood for them, but they’re feeding freely now.”

Further studies will be conducted once the roost is located, including a roost count, where a volunteer sits under a tree, counting bats as they come out at night.

A juvenile long-tailed bat trapped in Talbot Forest that conservationists hope will bring them back to roost.

Anna Porter / Stuff

A juvenile long-tailed bat trapped in Talbot Forest that conservationists hope will bring them back to roost.

But any information obtained may be fleeting, as “they are always on the move”, he said.

Carson-Iles said the biggest risk to bats in South Canterbury is predation, “being eaten by the usual aftermath of predators including people’s cats”, and loss of territory, “they have a very high need for roost trees, so we need to protect as many trees with holes as possible.

Ines Stager, who volunteers with the Talbot Forest Task Force, said the weather last Wednesday when the bats were trapped was a “perfect bat night as far as temperature”.

“The mission is not over yet,” Stager said, planning to remove equipment to locate the bats again and track them to their roost.

Pekapeka-tou-roa, or long-tailed bats, can fly at 60 kilometers per hour.  (File photo)

Davidson-Watts Ecology

Pekapeka-tou-roa, or long-tailed bats, can fly at 60 kilometers per hour. (File photo)

The last time bats in Talbot Forest carried transceivers was six years ago and the subsequent roost count identified 18 bats, he said.

She hopes the young couple will help solve a mystery, as in recent years bats have been conspicuously absent at this time of year.

“We’re curious if all the bats in Talbot Forest might go back to Kakahu Bush or Māori Gully or somewhere else – maybe they’re just seasonal in Talbot Forest?”

The settlements around South Canterbury are considered to be among the only ones on the east coast of the South Island, with others in the Catlins.

The bats, which are critically endangered, are mainly restricted to a small area of ​​Peel Forest in the north, in the gorges of the Ōrari, Waihi and Te Moana, Kakahu and Opihi rivers, and on forest remnants and the limestone areas around Hanging Rock. , according to the Department of Conservation website.

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