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By Ruth Barnard 

Find out about our native bats and how to protect them...

New Zealand Bats/Pekapeka.

Bats are the only mammals that are native to New Zealand so they are worth protecting! There are two species of bat here: the Long tailed bat and the Lesser short tailed bat. There was a third species, called the Greater short tailed bat but they are thought to be extinct.

Long Tailed Bat.

The Long tailed bats are the smaller of the two species weighing only 8-11 grams, that's about the weight of two standard sheets of A4 paper. They are chestnut brown with small ears and a little upturned nose. Most bats echo location calls can't be heard by humans but because Long tailed bats call at a lower frequency some people can hear their call.

Lesser Short Tailed Bat.

The Lesser short tailed bat is very unique, it's one of the few bats in the world that comes down to the ground for hunting. These amazing little creatures will use their folded wings to help them to walk along the forest floor looking for food.

Bat Tales.

In New Zealand bats aren't often represented in a very positive way. In Maori Folklore bats are connected to the mythical nocturnal bird Hokioi, which is said to signal death or disaster. When you think of bats you might also think of Dracula and blood sucking vampire bats, but the truth is that the majority of the worlds bat species only eat insects (insectivores) and others just eat fruit (frugivores).

What do our bats eat?

Our Lesser short tailed bat eats insects, fruit, nectar and pollen and the Long tailed bat eats small moths, midges, mosquitoes and beetles. Their eating habits make them really important for the environment. For example, the Short tailed bat is thought to play an important role in pollinating a threatened native plant. So just like Batman they do a lot of good.

Why do they need our help?

Bats were badly affected by the arrival of humans as we destroyed their homes and bought pests into their habitat. A few threats to bats include:

  • Pests that people introduced such as rats, stoats, possums and cats.

  • Habitat loss, this happens when people clear native forests for logging and farming.

  • Cutting of old hollow trees (these are important roost sites for bats).

  • Rat plagues.


How can we help them?

Here are a few ways you can help to protect bats:

  1. If we start by protecting the native forests and the environment this will help all of our native species.

  2. You can become a member of a conservation group and take part in bat spotting in NZ.

  3. If you are lucky enough to find bats, don't disturb them. You can watch them but you must be very quiet so that you don't frighten them.

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