Bunkers for Bats

bats bunker israel jordan idf photo hanging batBats find no-man’s land makes a great “hang-out.” Image via Yuvalh.

The song lyrics ask, “War — what’s it good for?” Well, conflicts between peoples may create new opportunities for displaced and endangered animals. Haaretz newspaper reports that Ph.D. student Eran Levin of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Zoology has discovered one of the most species-rich bat populations in the world — and they’re hiding out in unused army bunkers in the Jordan Valley. The bunkers, originally set up by the Israel Defense Forces, have been abandoned since the 1994 peace accord with Jordan. Since then, they have become the bats’ preferred haunt. Levin is making sure that the bats — some of them endangered — get adequate “hanging” space to encourage breeding and long-term survival.

“Thanks to Bat Conservation International and the Ford Foundation, we were able to begin making the bunkers a better home for the bats,” said Levin. “We’ve used planks, whitewashed surfacing mixed with gravel, plastic nets and ropes to make the ceilings more accessible for them. It turns out that every species has a preference in terms of materials and location, so we were able to encourage rarer bats to come as well as supporting the more widespread species.”

As many as 12 different species are now residents in about 20 old army bunkers. The scientists believe that the bats come from Israel, Jordan and Palestinian-controlled areas. The buildings are now providing crucial living space for some of the most endangered bat species in the region, including the Mediterranean Horseshoe Bat and Geoffroy’s Bat.

To read more about how Tel Aviv University researchers are providing a suprising house and home to an important nocturnal mammal, read the article in Haaretz.

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