Batting in Sardinia

Mehely's Horseshoe Bat

Mehely's Horseshoe Bat

Bats in Sardinia

In early April, BiOME Partner, Richard Moores, was fortunate to have the opportunity to join two local bat surveyors at a cave in northwest Sardinia.

Little can compare to the sight of several thousand bats present in a single limestone cave, including mega clusters of many hundreds of individuals. Top billing went to three species that are not present in the UK; Maghreb Mouse-eared Bat Myotis punicus, Mehely’s Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus mehelyi, and Schreiber’s (Bent-winged) Bat Miniopterus schreibersii, the latter being the caves most numerous resident. There are also Greater Horseshoe Bats Rhinolophus ferrumequinum and usually a handful of Long-fingered Bats Myotis capaccinii present but these are exceptionally difficult to see as they usually roost beneath the Schreiber’s Bats!

The cave that was surveyed was once a guano mine and you have to walk over quite incredible piles of the substance in order to access the rear of the cave; some piles are so high they’ll ultimately make the cave unsuitable for roosting bats unless removed. The smell of guano, sound of wings and chatter, on top of the natural warmth of the cave made for a full sensory assault and a truly unforgettable experience.

 

Maghreb Mouse-eared Bat

Maghreb Mouse-eared Bat

Italy and EPS

As European Protected Species under the EU Habitats Directive, bats should in theory receive very similar protection across the EU. Richards’ experiences in France suggest that this isn’t necessarily always the case, and in Italy it is another matter altogether. For instance, in Italy, anyone is able to enter the known roosting sites of bats without a licence, quite different from the UK where at least one person in a party would need a roost visitor licence (Level 1). Additionally, Italy places less importance on bats with regard to development sites. It seems that bats have a harder time in Sardinia in many ways, but at least there’s plentiful food as farming is certainly less intensive on the island compared to the majority of the UK. The local bat group has dedicated large amounts of time and money into bat protection and the cave visited, along with several others in the area, was fully gated. 

Greater Horseshoe Bat 'shielding' a Schreiber's Bat

Greater Horseshoe Bat 'shielding' a Schreiber's Bat