Threatened bats discovered in Auckland forest

11 Dec 2012

The discovery of a threatened bat population in Riverhead Forest has excited biologists and the Department of Conservation (DOC).

A colony of long-tailed bats, listed as ‘nationally vulnerable’ by DOC, has been located during a recent survey by Auckland Council.  Because of the importance of this find, a monitoring programme in Riverhead Forest will get underway beginning of December, with a funding contribution by Rayonier Matariki Forests.

Andrew Warren, Northland Regional Manager of Rayonier Matariki Forests, says the company was approached by biologists from the University of Auckland to help with the programme and they are delighted to be able to assist.

“We will be keeping an eye out for the bats and working with the University of Auckland’s students to identify and monitor them,” says Warren.  “Once we understand numbers and sites we can plan our operations so as to limit effects on the population. “In the meantime, we would welcome reports of sightings of the bats from anyone living adjacent to or visiting the forest around dusk which is when the bats become active.” 

Associate Professor Stuart Parsons, Deputy Head of School of Biological Sciences at University of Auckland says this could be a significant find.

“The long-tailed bat is only one step away from being endangered in the North Island and it is important that we do all we can now to ensure every colony has a good chance of survival,” says Assoc. Prof. Parsons.   “They tend to colonise in small groups and prefer to populate native forest, much of which has been cleared to make way for farms and cities.  This has contributed to declining numbers, however they can be found in non-native forests and the urban fringes so it is very important we protect them in these habitats.”

“The Department of Conservation’s bat recovery plan has a goal of conserving bats throughout their present range and establishing new populations where possible and we are working to assist with that. 

“The initial survey will involve automatic sound recorders that pick up the bats’ sonar waves which will tell us where they are and the level of activity.  Depending on what we find, we may then look to catch them and place radio transmitters on them to monitor their activity and whereabouts so we can work with Rayonier Matariki Forests to ensure their safety.

Bats are the only native terrestrial mammals in New Zealand and are important to the eco-system as they are major seed dispursers, pollenate plants and effectively bio-control pests and insects.

Some of the major factors contributing to the decline of the long-tailed bat are urbanisation and  predators such as cats, possums, rats and stoats.

Rayonier Matariki Forests is committed to preserving endangered and threatened species of flora and fauna, Warren explains, and actively implements protection programmes in its forests.  In the Riverhead Forest RMF has worked with Auckland Council Biodiversity personnel recording/monitoring flora and fauna in significant wetland areas. 

“We will continue to work closely with the bat monitoring programme and if necessary, will adjust our operations to ensure the safety and continuation of the long-tailed bat population in Riverhead Forest,” says Warren.

The monitoring programme will start 1st December and run through until the end of February 2013.  Any visitors to the Riverhead Forest who spot bats are asked to email Stuart Parsons at University of Auckland on s.parsons@auckland.ac.nz