35,778 bats recorded during 2016 Nietoperek bat census!

35,778 bats recorded during 2016 Nietoperek bat census!

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Added by January 13, 2016
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The team of bat experts gathering at the start of the census.

On Saturday 09 January 2016 an international team of 67 bat workers from Poland, Great Britain, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and Malta gathered in the system of underground tunnels, corridors and rooms of the Miedzyrzecki Fortified Front (MFF) near Lubuskie in Poland. The team of European experts joined forces to take part in the 15th annual bat hibernation census; the first of which took part in 1999.

An incredible 35,778 bats, of nine different species were counted, confirming the site, also known as Nietoperek Bat Reserve and designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the European Commission Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (92/43/EEC), as the largest and most important bat hibernaculum in Poland and the eighth largest in Europe.

The MFF was built on Adolf Hitler’s orders in WW2 between 1934 and 1938 and although not fully completed was the most technologically advanced fortification system of Nazi Germany. It is one of the largest systems of its type in the world with tunnels and corridors, munition chambers, barracks and inaccessible secret rooms buried between 20 and 50 metres below ground.

The bat census concentrated on the 32km central area of interconnecting sections of the system and was coordinated by scientists from the Wroctaw University of Life Environmental and Life Sciences who have organised 13 of the previous 15 counts.

Starting at 6am and finishing at dusk, the team was divided into nine groups to enable counting to take place simultaneously in all nine sections of the underground system. Species recorded included the Greater Mouse-eared, Barbastelle, Bechstein’s, Whiskered, Natterer’s, Daubenton’s, brown long-eared, Pond and Serotine bats.

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Greater Mouse-eared Bats.

“You could say that the MFF is the Kingdom of Greater Mouse-eared bat”, commented Dr. Tomasz Kokurewicz from the University of Life Sciences in Wroclaw.

“The count showed that this winter there are at least 26,735 individuals of this species. The second highest species count was for the Daubenton’s bat with 4,346 recorded. Most importantly,” he continued, “we found that the bats are in good shape and did not show any negative effects from the hot summer.”

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Daubenton’s Bats.

 

Although the survey this year resulted in a count of more than 2000 less than the record of over 38,500 in 2012, Dr Kokurewicz explained that such fluctuations in numbers are to be expected but emphasised the need to conduct counts every year. The annual counts enable population trends of individual species to be monitored in order to detect any decline in numbers at an early stage so changes in management can made in time to ensure that the bats are adequately protected.

One of the potential threats to the Nietoperek bat population is disturbance from people illegally entering the system and waking the bats up during the winter months. If the bats are woken from hibernation too many times during the winter they will eventually starve to death as there are no insects for them to feed on at that time of the year.

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Nietoperek Bat Census in full swing.

Another potential threat is White Nose Syndrome (WNS) which has killed millions of bats in North America. The disease, which was apparently accidentally transported to the USA by humans, is a fungus which invades the skin of hibernating bats and causes infected bats to become dehydrated. The bats also wake repeatedly during the winter burning up fat reserves and eventually die.  Luckily Dr Kokurewicz stressed that there is no current evidence of WNS in the Nietoperek bat population.here

 

 

 

The footage below was recorded during the 2012 Nietoperek Bat Census.

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