Conservation Project Aims to Save Central Europe's Rarest Bat Mon, Aug 1, 2011

One of Europe's most endangered bat species has received an important conservation boost thanks to an innovative project carried out as part of the UNEP-backed 'Year of the Bat'.

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Greater Horseshoe Bat inside the restored conservation complex in Germany Photo Credit: Rudi Leitl

Bonn (Germany), 1 August 2011 - One of Europe's most endangered bat species has received an important conservation boost thanks to an innovative project carried out as part of the UNEP-backed Year of the Bat.

An abandoned farmhouse in Bavaria, Germany - the last remaining roosting and breeding site of the Greater Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) - has been thoroughly restored by the local government and other partners, to provide optimum living conditions for the endangered species and new facilities for researchers.

The Bat House in Hohenburg currently accommodates around 40 females and 30 pups. It is estimated that around 30 male bats also live in the area. In the 1920s the Greater Horseshoe Bat was commonly found in south and central Germany, but today the species is threatened with extinction across central Europe due to intensified agriculture, the use of pesticides and loss of suitable roosting sites in buildings.

As Greater Horseshoe Bats hang freely from the ceiling and have particular requirements with regard to temperature and light intensity at their roosting site, they are particularly vulnerable to changes in their natural environment.

With the participation of the State Secretary of the Bavarian Ministry for Environment and Health, Melanie Huml, and Andreas Streit, Executive Secretary of EUROBATS - a binding international agreement administered by UNEP that aims to protect 53 bat species in Europe - the newly refurbished complex was presented to the media and broader public, highlighting its history and importance for bat conservation efforts.

"We are happy to present this extraordinary conservation effort as our contribution to the Year of the Bat campaign. The project combines sustainable species conservation and the opportunity for people in the region to experience nature in a special way, thus also contributing to the tourist industry," said State Secretary Huml.

UNEP/EUROBATS Executive Secretary, Andreas Streit, added: "This outstanding example of conservation action in the field is not only of national importance, but will inspire similar activities in other parts of Europe".

As well as providing a site for the endangered bats to roost, the building is set to become an important research centre. State-of-the-art infrared cameras installed in the attic of the complex will allow researchers to closely monitor the behavior of these sensitive animals and learn more about their behaviour.

The colony was first discovered in 1992 and has received support from the regional government ever since. In 2007 the purchase of the building by the municipality of Hohenburg was made possible through extensive funding by the Bavarian Nature Protection Fund and other sources. Since the beginning of the initiative, around US$1.4 million has been invested in the building to help conserve the local bat population. A project office and an information centre are due to be added to the complex.

The conservation project in Germany reflects the obligations of the 33 member states of the EUROBATS agreements to protect overground breeding and resting sites (known as roosts) from disturbance. In Europe, a high percentage of bat species roost for at least part of the year in buildings - often those of historical or cultural importance such as churches, castles and bridges.

The UNEP-backed Year of the Bat (2011-12) is promoting conservation, research and education on the world's only flying mammals, placing a special focus on the ecological benefits that bats provide, such as pest control and seed dispersal.

Notes to Editors

The Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS), a binding international treaty which came into force in 1994, presently numbers 33 European states among its Parties and counts 62 range states plus the European Union within its area. The Agreement was concluded under the auspices of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), which recognizes that endangered migratory species can be properly protected only if activities are carried out over the entire migratory range of the species. Administered by UNEP, EUROBATS aims to protect all 53 species of bats identified in Europe, through legislation, education, conservation measures and international co-operation with Agreement members and with countries which have not yet joined. (

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), also known as the Bonn Convention, works for the conservation of a wide array of endangered migratory animals worldwide through the negotiation and implementation of agreements and species action plans. At present, 116 countries are parties to the convention. (

For more information, please contact:

Andreas Streit, Executive Secretary, UNEP/EUROBATS, Tel. +49 228 815 2420 or e-mail

Bryan Coll, UNEP/Nairobi, Tel. +254 20 762 3088 or e-mail

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