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Rewilding: Bats are back in business

Blog post by Daisy Pinner-Saunders, Wildlife Conservation Intern

To ecological restore tropical rainforests quickly we need to do more than just plant trees. To ensure the success of forest regeneration, wildlife has to be encouraged back to the area, ensuring the reinstatement of vital ecological processes required for a healthy rainforest ecosystem. Here at Osa Conservation we are trialling different restoration and rewilding approaches to do just that. One of our rewilding projects is to bring forest associated bats back to our newly planted restoration plots. The restoration plots were once used for cattle grazing but we are now working to recover the rainforest that once existed there.

To accompany our restoration efforts, we are trialling passive rewilding methods. We have installed 20 artificial bat roosts to imitate the hollow of ancient ajo trees that offer a safe home for numerous species of bats.

 

This is the ancient Ajo tree, which is what the bat box design is based on. This is the species of tree that offers bats a safe home and can take a long time to be able to get natural cavities, if fact up to 100 years. Photo: Eleanor Flatt.

 

The idea is to see if bats will recolonise these once degraded areas before there are natural cavities for them (which can take up to 70-100 years to appear in secondary forests). This is important as bats play a major role in seed dispersal, insect population control and pollination, all of which are crucial for regenerating forests. The artificial roosts are checked monthly by the wildlife conservation team for the presence of bats, whether it be the actual bats in the box or faeces and insect remnants at the bottom.

 

This is the design of the bat box that we are using here in the Osa Conservation restoration and rewilding plots. The same design is in all 20 of the plots being used for the study. This box was in fact our first one to be used by the Common Big-eared Bats.Photo: Daisy Pinner-Saunders.

 

The first 7 bats were found in on the 10th July 2019 and then another 4 were found to be using the artificial roosts on the 5th September 2019. Bat homes are open for business! We knew straight away that they were insectivores due to the vast amount of butterfly and dragonfly wings in the faeces. We took pictures of the individuals at the top of the roost and sent them to our bat specialists Elene Have Audet, Doris Audet and Gloriana Chaverri who helped us identify them as the Common Big-eared Bat (Micronycteris microtis). This species has been known to recolonise in regenerating forest quickly, but it only took these guys 3 months to find their new home in our restoration experiment. It is amazing to see this bat colony in such a young forest already and hopefully these artificial roosts will provide homes for more and more forest associated bats.

 

This group of 4 Common Big-eared Bats were the last colony that the Wildlife Conservation team found. They have decided that H8 is their new home, this is one of our high Balsa planted plots. Photo: Markus Martínez Burman.

Osa Conservation
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