Batmobile goes to Dracula’s homeland
Thursday 12 July 2007
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is sending batmobiles out across Eastern Europe to discover where bats are living.
Batmobiles, vehicles fitted with bat detectors, are being deployed across Transylvania and other parts of Romania, and in neighbouring Moldavia, Hungary and Bulgaria.
The project, led by ZSL, in association with the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) and funded by the Darwin Initiative is the first step in a highly ambitious plan to map bat populations around the world. Teams of trained volunteers will be driving vehicles fitted with bat detectors, which pick up the high frequency sounds that bats make, every month to find out how bat populations are faring throughout the countries.
Dr Kate Jones, ZSL Project Manager, explained, “Bat census information is a fantastic conservation resource, as it is an excellent indicator of the health of the environment. Bats thrive in conserved, intact environments, but decline dramatically as their habitats are degraded, so finding few or no bats is an accurate sign that an environment is suffering. It will also provide a sensitive measure of effects of climate change on wildlife across the world.”
Bats make ultrasonic sounds, inaudible to the human ear, in order to find their way around and locate prey. As they are difficult to locate and identify visually, these ultrasonic sounds have proved the best way to assess populations, as they are detectable with a hand-held device. Monitoring bats globally is logistically demanding and the batmobile was developed to meet the challenge and is now being used as a vehicle for monitoring bats in Eastern Europe. The scientists are planning on surveying in other parts of the world in the future and hope to build a global picture of bat populations. With training, people from different countries and all walks of life can participate in this global project and make a significant contribution to environmental knowledge.
Colin Catto from The Bat Conservation Trust says, "We are delighted with the huge enthusiasm of volunteers in all the countries, we are all enjoying working together to produce information which will help conserve bats at a Pan-European and global level.
The project to monitor bat populations in Romania, Moldavia, Hungary and Bulgaria is being undertaken with funding from the Darwin Initiative, the conservation funding initiative of the Government’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).