A colony of native long-tailed bats have been discovered in the Aorangi Ranges in South Wairarapa. PHOTO/COLIN O’DONNELL

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

A population of native bats has been found in South Wairarapa’s Aorangi Ranges.

Post graduate students from Victoria University had been conducting long term studies on the impact of pest control on biodiversity in the ranges when they discovered the colony of long-tailed bats.

Long-tailed bats are smaller than the short-tailed bat, chestnut brown in colour, with small ears and weighing from eight to 11 grams.

In the 1990s there was also a colony in the Tararua Ranges with occasional recordings of them in the peri-urban district surrounds – recent surveys have not detected them though.

“The re-discovery of this colony of long-tailed bats in this area is likely the result of successful predator control,” technical adviser of ecology for the Department of Conservation Moira Pryde said.

She said in colonies where there were no predator control measures in place they were declining at a rate of from five to nine per cent.

“It is feared many populations will go extinct within the next 50 years without conservation action,” she said.

The species is vulnerable to introduced predators including cats, rats, possums and mustelids.

Additional threats include the loss of habitat and land degradation through land development.

Aorangi Restoration Trust manager Bob Burgess said predator control measures in the area had been in place for a long time – the trust’s aim is to restore the Aorangi Forest and surrounding native wildlife by 2045.

“We are excited that we’ve got long-tailed bats here. We are hoping that there is more than one colony.

“They are difficult to see save for certain times of the day.”

He said rats were still an issue and were of concern given it was a mast year.

“What has helped is the combination of 1080 and around the outside of the forest area there has been complementary and quite intensive trapping.”

Pryde said the species was more commonly seen than short-tailed bats as they fly at dusk along forest edges.

“[They] are widely distributed throughout the mainland, Stewart Island, Little Barrier and Great Barrier islands and Kapiti Island.”

She said anyone who sighted them should get in touch with DOC online at, doc.govt.nz