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History of AfricanBats NPC

Early foundations

Bat Interest Groups

Bat Interest Groups started in the United Kingdom during the 1980s, with an increase in scientific and public interest in bat conservation due to changes in Britain’s Wildlife and Countryside Act of 191/2 (which makes it illegal to kill or harm bats) that stimulated the formation of numerous amateur bat groups to assist in enforcing the Act (Taylor, 1999).

South Africa – Bat Interest Groups

In South Africa, the first bat interest group was established in 1994 in KwaZulu-Natal (Durban Bat Interest Group) in association with the Durban Natural Science Museum, under the guidance of Dr. Peter Taylor.  A year later (1995) a group was established in Gauteng (Gauteng Bat Interest Group) as part of the Friends of the Transvaal Museum.  Both groups later changed their names to indicate a broader region of influence – Bat Interest Group of KwaZulu-Natal (Bats KZN) and Gauteng and Northern Regions Bat Interest Group (GNORBIG).  Bats KZN is still affiliated with the Friends of the Durban Natural Science Museum, while the Transvaal Museum whose name changed to the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History, no longer has  Friends Groups. However, the Gauteng Bat Interest Group continued as a stand-alone association.  These groups are driven by passionate individuals who have an appreciation of bats and an interest in their conservation.

AfricanBats NPC Journey

Seeds are sown - 1994

AfricanBats NPC roots go back to 1994 when Ernest Seamark assisted Teresa Kearney with fieldwork on bats for her PhD. Then it was realized that very little information was known of these nocturnal flying mammals.  Both being members of the newly formed Durban Bat Interest Group, they were qualified Bat Workers.

Seed germinate - 2002

During a workshop in 2002 to assess the South African mammal species for the IUCN Red List, it became apparent that the information and data required for these assessments was not being captured in traditional academic journal articles.  What information was available, was scattered amongst various academic journals where the cost to access these was also beyond the reach of many researchers, academics and conservationists in Africa.  There was a need to fill this gap.

African Chiroptera Project

The African Chiroptera Project was an idea that started to develop after the Red List workshop in 2002.  Various bat researchers, who currently worked in Africa or had in the past, were contacted to discuss as to what could be done to move bat conservation forward in Africa. A few key items were identified.  Some of the resources that were developed or being developed were originally offered to other International Conservation organizations but none were interested in the draft resources that were presented to them.

African Bat Conservation News

In 2004, a small group of bat scientists who were or had worked on African bats established the journal African Bat Conservation News (ISSN 1812-1268), with the aim to create a forum where observations, notes, ideas and discussions on conservation of bats could be recorded in a published format.  Following the examples for birds and herps (amphibians and reptiles) that have dedicated journals/newsletters for the publication of short observations African Bat Conservation News initially adopted the editorial policies of African Herp News.  With the lack of the international organizations wanting to host this publication, the first issues were published under the African Chiroptera Project with the support of the Transvaal Museum (now Ditsong National Museum of Natural History).  Once AfricanBats NPC was formally established, the publication has been published under this organizations name.

African Chiroptera Report

There is considerable information on bats in Africa, but this information is widely scattered in different academic journals, which makes accessibility a problem. Much of the older works are not available online, and some of what is available is unaffordable in the African context to purchase and download.


The above issue was identified back in 2002, when the African Chiroptera Project was started with the aim to assemble all information on bats in Africa into a single, annually updated, open source, reference document.  The initial, primary focus was on the taxonomy (names) of African bat species as this was seen as an impediment to African bat research. An open source, online synthesis of African bat taxonomy that could be inexpensively updated relative to the cost of publication was identified as the medium to inform African bat biologists about new taxonomic changes resulting from all the new studies on African bats largely involving molecular analyses. In July 2006 the first issue of the African Chiroptera Report (ISSN 1990-6471) was released, this has been followed by annual updates.

But more than just due to changes in the taxonomy, the report grew as more and more information relating to different aspects of life histories of the various species was untangled in recently published papers. These also highlight gaps in our understanding of so many of these species.

Training and capacity building

With this surge of academic interest in African bats, it was noticed that there was a lack of capacity and skills in capturing, handling, and accurate identification of these bats. As a result, in 2012, AfricanBats NPC offered the first introduction course on ‘Bat biology, ecology, conservation and identification’, and the first bat fieldworkers course was held in 2014.  The aims of these courses were primarily to expose students, who wished to work on bat related projects at post-graduate levels, to the techniques and tools to work with bats in the field and gain the experience needed.  After the first bat fieldworkers course, it became clear that a single course was not sufficient to give an individual the necessary experience to be competent to undertake independent bat fieldwork, especially with regards the use of mist nets.  In 2015 a mentorship system was introduced following the South African bird ringers’ mentorship system. Alongside the introduction of the training and mentorship program for bat workers/fieldworkers, the development of best practice standards and procedures guidelines for such work had been initiated and will be made available for the wider community.

Formalization - 2012

Another of the key outputs identified for the African Chiroptera Project was the requirement was to establish an organization that could meet all the various legal aspects necessary to implement an integrated plan.  Hence AfricanBats was registered as a Not-For-Profit company (2012/007836/08) on 18 January 2012, and a Public Benefit Organization (PBO 930 049 527) and Non Profit Organization (NPO 155-917) in 2015. These formal registrations legitimize the aims and objectives of AfricanBats NPC and provide the legal framework for the acquisition of funding and assets to support the objectives and activities identified in the African Chiroptera Project document.

Bat Conservation Africa (BCA)

In February 2013, Bat Conservation International organized a workshop in Naivasha, Kenya for mammalogists from 19 countries. One of the outputs from this workshop was the establishment of a network of bat scientists and conservationists who would work towards the conservation of bats across Africa.  Ernest Seamark (representing the new born AfricanBats NPC) signed the founding document committing South Africa to the key goal of this network.

Current state

Currently AfricanBats NPC's board is reviewing a strategic plan (2023 - 2030), where it has decided to see whether the activities of the organization can be aligned with those adopted in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (15th Conference of Parties on the Convention on Biodiversity) which may assist with prioritization of some of the actions of AfricanBats NPC to work towards contributing significantly to these targets set for 2030.

Other organizations working in Africa:


Bats without Boarders - Registered as a Scottish Charity and operating in southern Africa.

African Bat Conservation - Registered in UK as a Charity and currently operating in Malawi.

Bat Networks in Africa

Bat Conservation Africa (BCA)

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