Read­ing, UK, April 2012: I had just stood down as chair­per­son of my county bat group.

‘I’m off to New Zealand!’ I an­nounced. Amid the jeal­ous best wishes to en­joy the beau­ti­ful coun­try, was the com­ment, ‘Why do you want to go there? - they have no bats! You’ll be back in no time!’

Such is the widely held, mis­taken be­lief that New Zealand has no bats. A view held not just by for­eign­ers; New Zealan­ders are mostly obliv­i­ous to the ex­is­tence of their one na­tive mam­mal too.

I have talked to landown­ers who swear there are no bats around their place, and never have been in their life­time, when I had watched and lis­tened to them the night be­fore in the ad­ja­cent pad­dock. We can be for­given for this view when you re­alise how rare they are and how dif­fi­cult to see or hear.

There have only been four species of bats in Aotearoa-New Zealand, all present in the past here in Otago. One species (the largest) was only just dis­cov­ered as fos­sil re­mains very re­cently, though it be­came ex­tinct.

The next largest (the greater short-tailed bat) lost its last foothold on life in a rat in­va­sion of Big South Cape Is­land off Rak­iura-Ste­wart Is­land in the late 1960s. Its near­est rel­a­tive, the lesser short-tailed bat has only 13 known pop­u­la­tions, just two of them in the South (Eglin­ton Val­ley and When­hou-Cod­fish Is­land). All three of th­ese species are fa­mous for their un­usual habit of bur­row­ing un­der the leaf lit­ter to find food prey.

In­cred­i­bly, The Catlins has man­aged to hold on to one species of bat; the long-tailed bat (LTB or Chali­nalobus tu­ber­cu­la­tus). Along with other spe­cial crea­tures we are lucky to have like the Whakaho or NZ Sea-lion, mo­hua /yel­low-head and Hoiho /yel­low-eyed pen­guin, their con­ser­va­tion sta­tus is ‘threat­ened’.

LTBs are tiny; all of 8g of

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