THE tiny southern bent-wing bat is vital to Victoria’s ecology* but numbers of the little creatures are in decline.
The bats live in caves in the south west and south east of South Australia and help safeguard Victoria’s $11 billion agriculture* industry from pests.
Each night during the warmer months, thousands of bats eat tonnes of insects, keeping nature in balance and helping farmers.
In the 1960s, there were 200,000 bats but today there are less than 50,000.
Federal and state governments, farmers and a number of health and conservation* agencies are very concerned that no one knows why they are disappearing.
Emmi van Harten, 27, of Castlemaine, was raised on a bush block outside Bendigo in central Victoria. Her mum instilled in her a love of nature but she knew little of bats.
“She was always pointing things out to me, an echidna, a particular bird,” Emmi said.
“I developed a strong sense of place in the bush.”
In 2015, Australian microbar expert Dr Lindy Lumsden spoke at Emmi’s local Landcare group and showed everyone the little animals.
“It was fascinating. They’re so tiny, so fragile,” Emmi said.
The following month, the Australian Government released a plan to help recover populations of the critically endangered bat, including funding for research. Emmi jumped at the chance and started a PhD* on the topic at La Trobe University, Bendigo.
After just 18 months, Emmi has made great progress through the use of microchip* technology — used to register cats and dogs — and large-scale radio wave antennas* to detect the bats’ movements.
“Previously, researchers had to catch hundreds of bats and use handheld readers to record them,” said South Australian Museum officer and Ms van Harten’s supervisor Terry Reardon.
“Now, with Emmi’s project, we’re able to monitor large numbers of bats remotely for months on end without disturbing them.”
Emmi and her team have discovered that the bats are moving 70km in five hours between a major breeding cave at Naracoorte, just inside the South Australian border, and a non-breeding cave at Glencoe.
Emmi hopes that her work will help people understand more about the bats and their important role.
“I hope in time we’re able to change people’s perceptions of bats,” she said.
For for information visit their website: ausbats.org.au.
● Bats can see but use sound waves to detect where things are, called echo-locating. Their echo-locating sound is so loud that they have to switch off their ears to avoid deafening themselves. We can’t hear it as it is out of our hearing range but if we could it would be louder than a jack hammer.
● They eat up to half their body weight in insects each night.
● They have to tense their feet muscles to let go of things. This enables them to sleep hanging upside down without falling to the ground.
● A baby bat is called a pup.
ecology: the land and natural systems
PhD: the top academic achievement. People with a PhD are called Dr
microchip: metal computer chip containing information
antennas: metal rod used to pick up information
LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY
Activity 1. Population decline
Read or listen to the article then answer these questions.
What is the main purpose of this article?
What is Emmi van Harten doing about this problem?
Why did she decide to research this problem?
What has she found out about these bats already?
How might this information help solve the problem?
If you were trying to solve this problem, what other information could be helpful to you?
If the southern bent-wing bat population continues to decline.
What will the flow on effect be for agriculture, farmers and the general population?
Time: allow about 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Science, Critical and Creative Thinking.
Activity 2. Information report
Write an information report about the southern bent-winged bat.
Use information from the article and from other sources to assist you.
Include information under the following subheadings – classification, habitat, diet, physical appearance, population size, threats and their facts.
If possible include a labelled diagram of the bat.
Extension: Bat population mathematics
According to figures in the article*, approximately how much smaller is the current population of bats than the 1960 population?
What percentage of the 1960 population is left today?
Represent this as a fraction.
In 1960 if each bat ate 1000 insects each night – how many insects would be eaten each night?
Today if each bat ate 1000 insects – how many insects would be eaten each night?
If bats move 70kms in 5 hours, how far can they travel in one hour?
*Use 50,000 as the current population to complete these problems
Time: allow 60 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Science, Mathematics
(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers, Punctuation)
Word a Minute
Write the word ‘Bat’ in the middle of a piece of paper. Then create a mind map with 5 subheadings: hear, see, taste, smell and touch. Picture yourself suddenly surrounded by bats. What would you see? What would you hear? Make it a challenge by giving yourself only 1 minute to come up with a list of describing words related to the 5 senses:
Eg: Sight – dark, frightening
Extension: Play the game with a partner. Compete against one another to see who can think of the most words in one minute.
Time: Approx. 15 minutes
Curriculum links: English, Big Write, VCOP
Activity provided by Andrell Education www.andrelleducation.com.au