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Dublin: 4°C Sunday 29 May 2022

Bat experts gather in Dublin Castle to discuss 'hot topics'

Dene nene nene nene…EUROBATS!

This common or Soprano bat was pictured in Northumberland, England but the species are also found in Ireland.
This common or Soprano bat was pictured in Northumberland, England but the species are also found in Ireland.
Image: Owen Humphreys/PA Archive/Press Association Images

BAT EXPERTS FROM across the globe have flown into Ireland for an international conference about the conservation of the winged mammals.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan opened the Eurobats Advisory Committee meeting this morning at Dublin Castle.

The three-day gathering will focus on the protection of bats in Europe as outlined in the Eurobats international agreement. The experts will examine how best to protect 52 species of bats during the development of windfarms, roads and forestry.

Dr Ferdia Marnell, head of animal ecology in the Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service, told TheJournal.ie that there are three “hot topics” being discussed.

Two of those have arisen because bats are migratory animals. As bats can fly as far as North Africa and the Middle East, the Eurobats conference now features scientists from 42 countries – its biggest ever.

“We’re looking at massive international cooperation here,” said Marnell. “This is the biggest gathering of these scientists ever after we discovered that bats from Europe fly as far as North Africa and the Middle East.”

Migration flight paths can be dangerous for bats as wind farms continue to pop up across the continent.

“Bats are subject to collisions with the turbines,” explains Marnell. “We have a working group here to make sure that the wind farms do not impact on bats.

The site of the farm is important. We can work out what routes the bats are migrating and avoid them or we can redesign the surrounding landscape as bats naturally follow the landscape, such as trees and hedgerows to minimise fatalities.

On an international front, there is a deadly disease known as white-nose syndrome wreaking havoc on the ecological system in north America as millions of bats have died from it.

“It is an ecological disaster,” according to Marnell. “Bats eat ants and other pests, such as mosquitoes. They also pollinate some fruit trees. These mass deaths are having a huge impact on agriculture as much more money is having to be spent on pest control.”

Over the next three days, the group will discuss disease control, tracking and management. There is a lot of cross-reporting being done, added Marnell.

Bats in Ireland

There are only nine species of bats in Ireland but Minster Deenihan said they play an important role in the ecosystem. All nine are protected under Irish and EU law.

“There is a growing awareness in Ireland, among both the farming and urban communities,” he said in his opening address, “of the importance of ecosystem services. The value of bats, for example in natural pest control, is one of the messages we are now working to get across to the members of the public.”

A monitoring programme has been established in Ireland, while “thousands of people have been introduced to the joys of bats through walks and talks organised by Bat Conservation Ireland over the years”, added the Minister.

However, in other European countries bat conservation is in its infancy and bats are still persecuted. In total, 62 countries are included as range states in the Eurobats agreement but just 33 have actually signed up to it.

This is the first time the Advisory Committee has held it annual gathering in Ireland. Dr Marnell is acting as the vice-chair, while Peter Lina from the Netherlands chairs the meeting.

Find out more about the Eurobats agreement>

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