PHOTO/SABINE BERNERT

A critically endangered bat has been discovered at Pukaha National Wildlife Centre.

The New Zealand long-tailed bat was detected on an acoustic recorder set up to record Pukaha’s wild birds.

It was the first time the bat had ever been recorded at Pukaha and comes after years of anecdotal sightings and suspicions about the bat’s presence.

Five acoustic recorders were deployed at the wildlife centre before the covid-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown.

One was set up near a stream and recorded one bat pass.

It is thought the stream’s open corridor characteristics, fresh water, and high abundance of insect prey combined to provide an ideal feeding habitat for the bat, which allowed it to be recorded.

Pukaha spokesperson Alex Wall said staff at Pukaha were elated by the discovery and hoped it would shine the spotlight on one of New Zealand’s most threatened species.

“This bat is incredibly rare and at real risk of extinction.

“Unless there is intervention and fast, its population is forecast to decline by 90 per cent over the next 30 or so years.

“The bats are at the highest conservation threat level status of ‘nationally critical’.

“It does not get much worse.

“The only level beyond this is ‘extinct’ so this discovery is mega important and has everyone very excited.”

Long-tailed bats live and breed in the cavities of dead and old-aged native trees and are thought to produce only one offspring a year.