With Hamilton being one of the only New Zealand cities to still boast a resident population of Long-tailed Bats, Hamilton Zoo is committed to supporting the long-term future of this native species through its involvement in Project Echo.
Project Echo is a multi-agency collaboration initiative which encourages the conservation of Long-tailed Bats in Hamilton’s urban areas and monitors what is hoped will be a growth in their population.
Hamilton City Council (through involvement from Council facilities Hamilton Zoo and Waikato Museum, and its Parks and Gardens Unit) is one of eight partner agencies involved in the project, with other partners being Waikato Regional Council, University of Waikato, Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec), Riverlea Environment Society, Waikato Tree Trust, the Department of Conservation and Trust Waikato.
The aim of Project Echo is to gather information on bat distribution throughout Hamilton, identify bat roosting sites, raise awareness of the species’ needs and threats, and carry out ongoing work to protect bat roosting sites and provide predator control.
Hamilton Zoo plays an important role in Project Echo through initiatives such as bat talks. Hosted at the Zoo, these talks help to raise awareness of Long-tailed Bats and educate the public about steps that can be taken to help protect them.
Because they leave little sign of their presence or activity, fly at dusk and after dark, and are small in size (weighing between 8-14g and with a wingspan of around 250mm) long-tailed bats are rarely seen by humans. Their size and flight pattern also means that when they are seen, they are often mistaken for fantails or swallows. As a result residents are often unaware of the presence of bat populations on their properties or the need to preserve the species’ habitats, such as dead or old trees with cavities.
Project Echo encourages residents to determine whether bats are present on their properties by using bat detectors. These detectors are available for the public to borrow free of charge through Waikato Regional Council and any bats identified using the detectors or seen by the public can be reported to the Council to help form a greater understanding of the bat population in Hamilton.
Through Project Echo Hamilton Zoo is also playing a part in helping mitigate the threat to Long-tailed Bats through habitat destruction and increasing competition for roost sites. The zoo has contributed funding towards the construction and installation of bat boxes throughout Hamilton. The boxes, of varying designs, will provide a safe location for Long-tailed Bats to roost.
In December 2011 the first of 15 artificial bat boxes were installed at a range of locations within Hamilton Gardens – an area where long-tailed bats are known to be found. A further 9 boxes were installed throughout Hamilton in early 2012. While it is thought the bats are unlikely to take up residence in the bat boxes in the immediate future, this initiative is seen as a long-term investment in the city’s bat population.