With your help we can save hundreds, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of bats.
ReWild NPC helps birds and small mammals that have been injured or orphaned and, when they are ready, returns them to the wild. It’s a little bit more than that though. When it comes to bats we’re specialists in their rehabilitation and we’re passionate about them, extending into education, human /bat conflict resolution, helping farmers use bats to control crop pests, making bat houses and other bat conservation measures.
There is a bat problem:
Every year hundreds, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of bats are being killed by lodges, town and rural home owners and on government owned properties in the Mpumalanga and Limpopo regions of South Africa. Most likely the problem extends to other areas where Free-tailed bats are found. Unless we change our ways we will drive these animals to extinction. It’s not difficult, there are solutions available, we just need to use them.
Why the bats need our help:
Common bats that are a roof roosting problem in this region are the Free-tailed bats (predominantly Mops condylurus, Chaerephon Pumilus, Mops Midas). These bats roost in large numbers in roofs, are noisy and some have a pungent odour so people remove them any way they can. They poison them, place buckets of water outside their exit holes and drown them, seal them into roofs to starve and pay pest control companies to remove them. These companies very often do not use humane methods and kill thousands of bats. The Free-tailed pups do not fly with their mothers and so they are poisoned or buried alive in foam filler or just sealed up in roofs and left to starve to death. It’s completely unnecessary, bats can be humanely excluded from roofs, these inhumane and illegal methods needn’t be used at all.
We suspect surviving bats from an inhumane or humane exclusion from a roof are likely to take up residence in neighboring roofs especially where bat houses have not been installed. These bats are then likely to experience a repeat eviction, with each move of the colony between November and June non-flighted bat pups will die, varying numbers of adults may die either directly or indirectly from the eviction and the colony is likely to experience enormous stress with each eviction which may very well impact reproduction and survival rates.
And if that isn’t enough, some local cultures are superstitious about bats, some regard bats as witches, and will even destroy natural bat roosts, very often with the bats in them.
The biggest threat to these bats is humans, we are the problem but we’re also the solution.
Education: Helps people overcome any fears or dislike of bats. Explains how valuable these animals are economically and environmentally. Equips people to humanely resolve any bat issues they have in their homes and work places.
Rehabilitation: While the rehabilitation of individual injured and orphaned animals is only a drop in the ocean of conservation it does provide us with a snapshot of what is happening in the wild environment. From what diseases and threats the animals are experiencing to how environmental conditions (such as drought, heatwaves, floods, climate change etc…) are affecting them. The rehabilitation side also gives us an insider view into seldom observed behavior, social structure, abilities to adapt etc…
Humane bat exclusion service: To offer both advice on humanely excluding bats out of roofs (which we already do and receive calls from around the country regarding bats in roofs) as well as offering a bat exclusion service during the months the bats are not breeding. Most complaints of bats in roofs come during summer when the bats are breeding and cannot be humanely excluded. By promoting bat exclusions and bat proofing of roofs (both occupied and unoccupied by bats) during the non-breeding months we can prevent this problem. Many home owners do not want to exclude the bats themselves. A bat exclusion service typically works out substantially more expensive than it costs for a roof fumigation which also removes the bats. The increased expense normally arises from repeat visits that increase labour time and travel costs. Numerous pest control services sell fumigation of the bats out of roofs as a humane and harmless bat removal method despite it being illegal in South Africa and inhumane or they sell a proper humane bat exclusion and then fumigate the bats out when they think no-one is looking. Given the option of what the home owner believes are humane offers to remove bats from roofs, they select the cheapest and the bats get excluded inhumanely. The solution is education of home owners and offering of bat exclusion services at the most competitive price possible.
Training the Solution: To offer an opportunity for upliftment in communities and at the same time saving bats from inhumane roof evictions. We intend offering a course that not only teaches how to do humane bat exclusions but also humane and natural methods of resolving squirrel, bird, bushbaby, rat etc… problems, making bat boxes, squirrel boxes, owl boxes etc… Using Faunce and Jane’s business background the course will also cover the basics of running a business, doing quotes, invoicing and basic accounting, this will give trainees the tools to start their own small business. The course will be put forward for SETA accreditation this will make the sponsoring of trainees even more appealing to corporate companies as it then provides them with skills development points as well as putting them in a good light for supporting non-profits, helping community and protecting wildlife. While people are becoming more environmentally aware and enjoying nature they are also moving more into environments that put them in conflict with nature. Small businesses around the country are needed to resolve those conflicts in a humane and environmentally friendly way. Unemployment is a problem in South Africa yet when we get calls from the public regarding bats in roofs we cannot find companies that are not pest control
companies offering humane bat exclusions other than one Johannesburg based company. Based on our personal experience and conversations with pest controllers they may claim to do humane exclusions but this it is not what happens.
Monitoring bat colonies post exclusion:
Bats that have been humanely excluded from a roof and survivors from inhumane exclusions must find alternate accommodation. We receive a large number of complaints of bat colonies moving into roofs mid breeding season. We suspect these are from a previous roof eviction in which they would have lost their pups and have now moved into another roof where they will give birth to their next round of pups and are likely to lose them again along with a number of adults in another round of inhumane eviction. Monitoring the bats after an exclusion will give us feedback on the likelihood of bats taking up residence in another roof, the success of bat houses being placed at bat exclusion sites in preventing this and the overall effect on the bat colony and how we can reduce the likelihood of bats moving into another building. This gives us the information to ensure that humane bat exclusions are done in a way that poses the least risk and stress to the bats both during and after an exclusion.
Wild Sanctuary and safety of wild roosts: To provide bats with a wild sanctuary that will allow colonies to grow without human persecution and man-made problems. Besides roofs, Free-tailed bats often select the expansion joints in bridges as roosting sites, these roosting sites turn into death traps for the colony during periods of heavy rain. Many of our bridges flood during heavy rains and the bats do not anticipate the problem that the rising water may cause them and any bat pups on the bridges have no escape option. When a bat takes off from a roosting position it needs space below it to drop before it can fly and gain height. As a result many bats get caught out on flooding bridges, leaving their escape too late and drowning. After flooding many of their carcasses can be found in the flood debris around bridges while many more are probably washed away. We are investigating designing elevated bat shelters that could be placed on bridges that are prone to flooding during heavy rain thereby providing bridge roosting colonies with a means of escape from rising flood waters.
Bats helping farmers: As crop pests become more and more resistant to pesticides farmers find themselves needing to use more and more pesticides to protect their crops. Bats consume many of the crop pests and can help farmers break their dependence on pesticides and enable more organic farming. We’ve been advising and assisting farmers with attracting bats to their properties using strategically placed bat houses. Bats in bat houses on farms controlling crop pests has multiple benefits; crop protection, environmentally friendly farming methods, reduced farming costs and provides safe protected roosts for bats.
What we need right now to save bats
· We need a piece of land near water (a preference of these bats) on which to establish a wild bat sanctuary, these Free Tailed bats are being constantly evicted from roofs and with each eviction they lose another round of pups and often a large number of adults as well, on some occasions entire colonies are lost. They need places where colonies can grow without human persecution. Many of these colonies number in the 100’s, some in the 1000’s.
We would use this same property to establish a permanent home for ReWild NPC and to grow the rehabilitation center. We need large flight cages in which to prepare bats for release (particularly Free-tailed bats as they are open air flyers) and these would not be easy to move from one premises to another. Research shows that continuous flight is a prerequisite for release, unfit bats are unable to adequately feed themselves and they ground and die. Minimum standards for bat flight cages are proving to be far too small for South African Free-tailed bats to fly continuously and new standards need to be set for flight cages for these bats.
· The property would also house an education center for trainees of the Training Solution project and will also be used to roll out programs on the importance of bats to schools, towns and villages in the area.
· Suitable property would allow us to accommodate paying interns/volunteers this would assist with funding as well as help in reducing the work load. Currently we are typically working an 18 hour day, with an on-site intern/volunteer program we could achieve so much more. Being outside of town centers in a more rural area makes us less convenient and accessible to day volunteers and more suited to accommodating volunteers on site. We have had some enquiries from prospective international volunteers but nowhere to house them on the current property.
· The property would act as a base from which to develop a bat exclusion arm that will specialize in carrying out humane bat exclusions and bat proofing of roofs in the non-breeding months. Where bat exclusions are needed in under-privileged rural areas these can be done as part of the training program for our trainees. During the breeding months it will focus on quoting and securing exclusions to be performed during non-breeding months as well as find interim solutions to help people live with their bats until the non-breeding season. Bat houses will also be built to provide alternate accommodation for bats being excluded and these will also be sold to the public. We have already made a few bat houses and sold these locally as well as some in Johannesburg.
Outlined above are 7 projects or ways we can save bats, to implement these we need permanent property from which to operate. We have been renting a premises under short term rental that is not suitable for these projects.
Recently we made our third move in 3 years due to owners selling or wanting their properties for other purposes. Moving premises is hugely disruptive to operations, costly and time consuming. Over the past 3 years we’ve experienced major disruptions to release programs and bat fitness training as a result of these moves.
We are unable to erect any permanent or semi-permanent structures due to uncertainty of length of stay on a property under short term lease. The projects we intend implementing would require investment into permanent or semi-permanent structures not easily moved, we require permanent property to ensure this investment is not lost.
The need is urgent and we are certain that the IUCN have insufficient data when listing many of the Free-tailed bats species as "least concern". Having lived in this area for the past 5 years we have become more and more concerned as we keep discovering the extent of the killing and persecution of the Free-tailed bats. We do not believe the current persecution of large numbers of these bats is sustainable.
We know we can make a huge difference by saving thousands and probably hundreds of thousands of bats. Your support goes a long way in helping save bats.