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Pekapeka-tou-roa / long-tailed bat management in Aotearoa New Zealand

Behaviour, conservation, threats, and management of pekapeka-tou-roa / long-tailed bats

Pekapeka-tou-roa / long-tailed bat of Aotearoa New Zealand

The long-tailed bat (Chalinolobus tuberculatus) is one of two bat species native to Aotearoa New Zealand. The other species is the lesser short-tailed bat which has three sub-species.

The long-tailed bat is widespread across the country, living in small colonies (approx. 100 individuals).

The species is endemic (only found in NZ) and threatened with extinction due to the loss and degradation of habitat and the introduction of exotic predators.

The long-tailed bat and lesser short-tailed bat are New Zealand’s only native land mammals and fill key niches within our native ecosystems.

As an integral part of New Zealand’s native fauna, understanding their behaviour, biology, and the risks they face is crucial for effective management and protection.

Behaviour and biology of long-tailed bats

The long-tailed bat is a small, insectivorous mammal with a wingspan of approximately 30 centimetres. They are primarily found in forested areas throughout New Zealand, relying on complex echolocation to navigate and locate prey.

These bats are social animals, forming maternal colonies during the breeding season and often roosting in tree cavities or under loose bark.

Feeding and foraging

Long-tailed bats are opportunistic feeders, consuming a variety of insects, including moths, beetles, and spiders.

They hunt in flight, using echolocation to detect and capture their prey. These bats play a vital role in controlling insect populations, contributing to the balance of ecosystems.

Roosting habitat

Roosting Behaviour and Requirements

Long-tailed bats require suitable roosting habitats for breeding, resting, and raising their young. They typically roost in tree cavities, under bark, or in artificial structures such as bat boxes. Roosting sites should provide protection from predators, stable microclimates, and proximity to foraging areas. Understanding their roosting behaviour and habitat preferences is essential for effective conservation and management strategies.

Importance of Native Trees

Native trees, such as totara, kahikatea, and rimu, are crucial for long-tailed bats, as they often provide suitable roosting sites. The removal of potential bat roost trees during land development or forestry operations can have a significant impact on bat populations. Preserving and enhancing the availability of native trees and creating artificial roosting structures are vital for their long-term survival.

Conservation of long-tailed bats

Threats and conservation challenges

Long-tailed bats face numerous threats and conservation challenges in New Zealand.

Habitat loss and fragmentation due to land conversion and urbanization are significant concerns. Additionally, predation by introduced mammalian predators, such as rats, stoats, and feral cats, poses a severe risk to their populations.

Climate change and inappropriate pesticide use may also have implications for their long-term survival.

Due to the size and current trend in their national population, long-tailed bats are currently classified as Threatened – Nationally Critical by the Department of Conservation (DOC), the highest level of threat within the national threat classification system.

Conservation efforts and legal protection

To protect long-tailed bats, various conservation and management initiatives are in place. Collaborative efforts between conservation organizations, researchers, and the public play a crucial role in safeguarding these bats.

The Department of Conservation has a Bat Recovery Group that works to conserve bat habitat, raise awareness, and conduct research on their behaviour and population dynamics.

Volunteer conservation groups around the country monitor long-tailed bat activity, preserve habitat, create artificial habitat, and undertake pest control with a focus on conserving this important species.

Minimising impacts on long-tailed bats is also required through legislation such as the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Wildlife Act 1953. The Wildlife Act 1953 makes it illegal to harm or disturb them or their roosts without the appropriate permits.

The Resource Management Act 1991 requires resources to be used in a way that does not negatively impact indigenous biological diversity, including long-tailed bats.

Professional ecologists around the country work with developers and councils to enforce the requirements of these two Acts.

NZ National Bat Network

The NZ National Bat Network is a facebook group for the sharing of bat-related information and consists of bat enthusiasts from government agencies, conservation volunteers, private sector, and ecologists.

Managing impacts on long-tailed bats during land development

Ecological Impact Assessments

An ecological impact assessment is an essential part of the resource consenting process for developing land for housing development, roads, quarries, etc.

Impact assessments identify potential bat habitats and assess the presence of bats in the area. They then recommend the appropriate mitigation measures to minimise the impact on local bat populations.

Mitigation measures and best practices

To minimise threats to long-tailed bats during developments, various mitigation measures can be implemented.

These include the retention of roost trees, creating artificial roosting structures, planting native trees to compensate for lost habitat, and incorporating bat-friendly design elements into infrastructure projects.

Collaboration between developers, ecologists, and conservation organisations is key to ensuring the protection of bats during these activities.

Roost tree removal protocol

A key threat to long-tailed bats is the felling of trees while bats are sleeping in them. If a key tree is felled at the wrong time, an entire population of long-tailed bats can be killed.

As such, minimising this risk is an essential part of managing and protecting long-tailed bats.

Protocols have been established by the Bat Recovery Group that outlines the process to minimise the risk to long-tailed bats during tree felling/removal. These are essentially:

  1. Determining whether long-tailed bats are present in the area based on previous monitoring in the area.
  2. Determining whether trees provide any suitable roosting habitat by an authorised bat worker inspecting trees from the ground.
  3. Monitoring trees with acoustic monitors to detect any bat activity around the trees and/or visual inspection of potential roost features by an authorised bat worker or a tree climber working with an authorised bat worker.
  4. Inspecting trees for signs of bats once they have been felled.

Long-tailed bats are an essential component of New Zealand’s biodiversity, playing a vital role in ecosystem health and balance.

Understanding their behaviour, biology, conservation status, roosting habitat, and the risks they face is crucial for effective management and protection.

By implementing conservation strategies, minimizing threats during developments, and preserving their roosting habitat, we can ensure the long-term survival of these remarkable creatures and the ecosystems they inhabit.

Together, we can make a difference in safeguarding the future of long-tailed bats in New Zealand.

Tītoki Landcare has a team of four authorised bat ecologists with experience managing both long-tailed bats and short-tailed bats.

Feel free to get in touch to talk about how we can help you look after this precious taonga.