Conservation of the Longfingered Bat as a flagship for Karstic habitat, Croatia

Having survived the war in Croatia, Daniela Hamidovic is building community-based conservation research and education into people’s lives alongside the humanitarian effort to rebuild the country’s infrastructure. Based in Zagreb, Daniela has set up a programme which involves local communities in helping to assess the population of the long-fingered bat in Croatia.

Little is known about the basic biology of this species, which is restricted to isolated communities in northwest Africa, southern Europe and southwest Asia. Identified as a priority species by the European Bats Directive, more research is urgently required to monitor its migration and distribution patterns.

Currently classed as ‘vulnerable’, because of industrial pollution and the impact of war, the long-fingered bat species is entering into the ‘endangered’ status. Restricted to a natural limestone habitat, unlike almost all other European bat species, it seems unable to adapt to co-existence with its human neighbours.

Aimed at improving the scientific understanding of this almost unknown bat species and to encourage its active protection, the research project focuses on the Miljacka Cave – one of the biggest bat caves in Europe. As part of efforts to halt this decline, Daniela has assembled a team of 17 young researchers, all of whom who see bat conservation and its implications for the local ecology as an important part of building peace in the region.

The research concentrates on the nursery bat colony in Miljacka cave near the river which runs through Krkain National Park. This ecological research involves assessing the microclimate, habitat use, hunting behaviour and home range of the bat species, as well as an analysis of the echo-location, diet and parasites.

Alongside the research, Daniela emphasises the vital importance of educational work, integrating work with local community groups and schoolchildren with the media as a way of promoting greater public awareness. The educational programme involves lectures, seminars and workshops in kindergartens, schools, and local communities, together with the development of promotional materials, such as T-shirts, leaflets and posters. Other initiatives include restricting public access to the caves; establishing a network of bat nesting boxes throughout the forests and in National Parks; as well as setting up ‘recovery units’ to receive injured bats. As part of efforts to raise the public awareness via media channels, a documentary on the nursery bat colony is being developed in collaboration with the Croatian national TV network. Several exhibitions are also planned to highlight the threats faced by the endangered long-fingered bat.

A long term monitoring strategy will be presented to Government, campaigning for greater legal protection of the caves and for the control of pollution levels to protect river feeding grounds, thereby guaranteeing a future for this threatened mammal species.

PROJECT UPDATE

Daniela enjoyed much media attention after receiving the Whitley Award, and even appeared on National Croatian television. In January 2001, Daniela went on to receive the National Ford Award.

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