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Published: 2014-04-08 00:00:00

It’s time to get batty about New Zealand’s unique long-tailed bats at a fun day being held this Saturday at the Hamilton Gardens.

From 4pm-7.30pm there will be face painting, bat arts and crafts activities, a sausage sizzle, a presentation and videos on the big screen, and a bat tour at sunset. The event’s been organised by Project Echo, which involves a number of agencies working together to protect and raise awareness of the long-tailed bat.  

The Bat Fun Day closely follows last month’s national conference on bats, during which biodiversity experts and scientists agreed that raising awareness of these nationally vulnerable creatures was critical to their survival. 

“A lot of people still don’t know there’s a population of long-tailed bats in Hamilton and this event is our way of changing that,” said Waikato Regional Council’s biodiversity officer Therese Balvert. 

“There are a few confirmed bat roosting sites in the southern part of Hamilton, including the Hamilton Gardens, but because bats are capable of long distance flights it’s likely they are more widely distributed through the city.” 

Weighing only 8-14 grams and with a wingspan of just 250mm, the long-tailed bat is a small insectivore which is unique to New Zealand. Hamilton is one of the only cities in the country to still support a resident population of them. 

“It’s especially important that we can identify where our bats are living in the city so we can protect them from predators such as rats and possums, and that’s where residents can help us.” 

She said bat detectors can be borrowed from the Hamilton Gardens information centre to enable people to monitor bat sounds that can’t be heard by the human ear. Any bat ‘sightings’ can be reported to the regional council at www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/projectecho or by calling 0800 800 401. 

“There are many things people can do to protect our bats. Dead or old trees with hollows and cavities are the perfect home for them, so before you chop down old cavernous trees on your property, consider borrowing a bat detector and checking for bat activity first,” she said. 

“People can also help us by building artificial roosts, controlling predators, sharing information on bats, and replanting native vegetation. 

“Bats can eat up to 1000 of those pesky mosquitoes per night, so we think that’s just another good reason to encourage bats in Hamilton. So come along to our bat fun day to talk to us about what you can do to protect the long-tailed bat,” Ms Balvert said.