The Forest and Bird Society says it’s thrilled that a large colony of endangered South Island long-tailed bats has been discovered during a survey on D’Urville Island, in the Marlborough Sounds.
Only 10 colonies of long-tailed bats are known to remain on the South Island mainland, with a total population of fewer than 5000 – and declining.
Debs Martin, Forest & Bird’s Top of the South Field Officer, describes how she found the bats while carrying out the final phase of a multi-year South Island bat survey.
She was climbing through the thick forest of D’Urville Island, in the Marlborough Sounds, which is just 80 kilometres away from Kāpiti Island.
Ms Martin says they thought they might find ‘some bats’ – but in fact they came up with a major find — a very large colony of South Island long-tailed bats.
Their roosts were set high up in the canopy, so it was impossible for the team to tell just how many there were, but Debs says the colony numbered in the hundreds.
The find is a major one because South Island long-tail bats are close to extinction. One species of bats, the greater short-tailed bat, is already extinct.
Before this find, there were only ten known colonies of the South Island long-tail bat in the South Island, with total numbers estimated at around 5000 – just a few feral cats away from disaster.
Forest and Bird say the find will make a big difference to the estimated chances of the species’ survival.
It adds: “But it’s not just those two who should take the credit.
“This, the last year of surveys, was made possible by the generosity of the late Colin Iles, whose estate funded the latest round of work.
“Forest & Bird will now work with the local iwi – Ngati Koata – and DOC to make sure that D’Urville Island, which is free of possums and ship rats, stays at least as good a place for bats as it clearly already is.”