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Bats in Protected Areas Program

The Protected Areas Program aims to document information on bats in specific protected areas, conduct inventories of bats, establish monitoring programs to understand bat population trends, identify important bat areas in need of specific management actions, identify important areas adjacent to protected areas that should be incorporated, develop bat management plans, and secure important bat sites through legal mechanisms. The program seeks to increase awareness of biodiversity records, provide data for conservation efforts, and protect important bat habitats.

About the Bats in Protected Areas Program

Many of the protected areas in Africa were created for the protection of large ungulate species, or were set aside as they were not suitable for agriculture or human settlement due to the presence of disease vectors (e.g. African sleeping sickness).  Nevertheless, various other species have been conserved through the creation of these protected areas.  To date, the focus in the management of these areas continues to promote the existence of charismatic large mammal species, which continue to draw much tourist revenue.  The protected area network in Africa is also made up of formally and informally protected areas.

The effectiveness of conservation management in informally protected areas has been questioned, and certain maps of the protected areas are out of date, as some of the informally and formally protected areas have been lost due to land use change from natural to agriculture, or developed for human settlements.

As bats are flying animals, this implies that many of their life history traits (e.g. roost and feeding sites) may not be fully contained within protected areas. In some instances a protected area may only be used as a foraging site, especially in small urban protected areas.  Very little, however, is known about which bat species occur within Africa’s protected areas, and how their diverse life histories are played out in relation to these areas.  Many bat species may already be conserved within the present protected area network, and there would therefore be little need for concern regarding possible extinction risks to these species.  Much of the current bat research has, however, been undertaken on bat populations outside the various protected areas, where in some cases the populations have been found to be declining. These population declines remain to be assessed in the context of relationships to populations in protected areas that may be potential source populations within the landscape.

Management for large ungulates may not directly affect bat species, but certain economic pressures and increases in tourist development in protected areas may have increased undesirable impacts on existing bat populations.  For instance, opening cave sites to tourists without consideration of potential impacts, and development of new accommodation in or near important bat feeding areas. The addition of new buildings / man-made structures in fairly untransformed areas, if not constructed to exclude bats could create additional roost space for some bat species that may then compete with other bat species that were present in the area but do not roost in man-made structures.  With knowledge and understanding comes the ability to plan, manage and mitigate many of the potential harmful activities that may occur if information is not taken into consideration.  With minor adjustments to management within specific protected areas, all bat species can be better conserved.

Under this research theme AfricanBats will focus on understanding bats in protected areas, documenting the species and their life history traits within these areas. This will also identify species that are not currently fully represented within the present protected area network and might require specific conservation measures outside the protected areas.  For instance a species may have critical life history traits (e.g. a cave roost) which are outside the protected area that should be included within the protected area network, so that its habitat or life history trait is sufficiently conserved.

Aims of the Protected Areas Program

  • Document previously published and unpublished information on bats in specific protected areas.

Historical information is available for many of the protected areas in Africa, but this information is often scattered in different museum records and old publications, so that many of the people involved with protected areas are not aware of these records.  Making this historical information accessible to protected area managers and planners will increase awareness of the biodiversity records for protected areas.  This information is also important to specialists and consultants who may be assisting the conservation agencies in management plan development and review.


  • Conduct inventories of bats in protected areas

Inventories form the foundation of which bats occur within a protected area, but some protected areas may never have had any historical surveys, and in some instances surveys were not complete.  Since changes in the environment, e.g. as a result of climate change and/or land use change, may lead to changes in the community structure of bats, evidence of such changes may be documented by comparing historical information (if this exists and is available) with recent studies.  Inventories are also important to document the portion of various species that are under some form of protection.  This information can be used to actualize the IUCN red list status of a species.


  • Establish monitoring programs to understand bat population trends in protected areas

Understanding how different bat species use an area, as well as how populations change seasonally and through time, are critical concerns that must be answered for effective conservation. Monitoring bat populations in protected areas (particularly large protected areas with few man-made land use changes, where a species' entire life history is contained within its boundaries) can also provide data against which trends in bat populations outside the protected area can be compared.


  • Identify bat important areas (i.e roost, and, or, feeding sites) in protected area that are in need of specific management actions.

Following on from information collected during the inventory and monitoring programs specific projects will be undertaken to identify habitats that are important to different species, and understand their use.  This will enable actions to be implemented for better conservation of certain areas, i.e. included in the management plan of a protected area.


  • Identify important areas (roosts, feeding sites and commuting routes) adjacent to protected area network that are in need of incorporation into the protected area.

Being able to fly, bats are not always present within a protected area. Bats may roost outside a protected area and only utilize it for feeding.  In such cases no matter how good the management of the area, a population may be under threat as a result of impacts to roosts or corridors from roost to the feeding area in the protected area. Identification of these instances will allow solutions to be found to protect bats in areas adjacent to protected areas.


  • Where needed, development of specific bat management plans for incorporation in a protected area management plan.

Information about important bat roosts or feeding grounds needs to be brought to the attention of management authorities. This information should be reviewed in light of current management plans, to identify any possible conflicts in management objectives, and where necessary make bat conservation related management and monitoring recommendations for these specific landscape features.


  • Secure important bat sites not in present protected area network through legal mechanisms of respective countries. [Create a protected area]

Identify locations of bat conservation importance that are not currently protected (for example, hibernacula or maternity roosts). Have these put into the country's protected area network. These places may be included in international agreements for migratory animals, especially if the species' life history spans multiple countries.

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