Nature Conservation chapter in Vlašim oversees successful release of bats at chateau park

Nyctalus noctula, photo: Pellinger Attila, CC BY 3.0

The Czech Union for Nature Conservation’s local chapter in Vlašim, Central Bohemia, this week released four species of bats that had wintered at its shelter over the last four months. The release of the animals nursed back to health or saved by the civic association has become a tradition at the park at the Chateau Vlašim.

Petr Švingr,  photo: archive of Czech Union for Nature Conservation
Petr Švingr heads the Czech Union for Nature Conservation branch in the central Bohemian town.

“It is a tradition for us now because it is something we have been doing annually for 12 years. The park in Vlašim is also an ideal location for the released of bats we have been caring for.”

What makes this particular park ideal for the bats? Are there rocky outcrops, grottos and soon on? What makes this park good for their release.

“Simply put, there are a lot of old and very tall trees full of all kinds of crannies and cracks which are perfect for wintering, for hibernation, and also lots of crags and shelter where the bats can live comfortably and also reproduce.”

Who turns up for the release? Families, schools, students of biology?

“It’s usually a mix. Generally, around 30 – 50 people turn out and they are from all walks of life. But it is not unusual for the mayor of Vlašim to come and also take part in the bats’ release.”

Bats are obviously a nocturnal animal so the release is in the evening, at dusk; I read that in this week’s release or return of the animals to Nature, fur species are being released? What species are they?

“The release of bats that wintered with us has become a tradition after 12 years.”

“That’s right, four different species are being released: the first is is called the Noctule or Nyctalus noctula in Latin, which is the largest species of bat living in the Czech Republic. The second is Vespertilio murinus, a species of vesper bat also called the Parti-coloured bat or the rearmouse. This bat is smaller, silver-coloured and you could say a little more aggressive in behaviour. The last two are a very tiny species of bat just three centimetres or so long, so very tiny. And then there is Nathusius' pipistrelle, which is a little bit bigger.

“There are too many differences between each species when it comes to height, weight, colour, to catalogue here but in terms of behaviour they can co-exist and are not aggressive. So there is no problem in releasing them at the same time.”

How long were the animals at your station and how did they come into your care?

“Those we are releasing now were cared for about four months. So over the winter.”

Nyctalus noctula,  photo: Pellinger Attila,  CC BY 3.0
During this period are they hibernating?

“They are hibernating and that requires preparing a special room where they can sleep and where we regulate the temperature and humidity.”

Had the animals suffered injury? How did they end up at the station?

“No, these ones hadn’t. They simple woke up from hibernation too early. It can get unseasonably warm, animals are affected and confused by global warming and often when they do wake up too early they are actually too weak to go back into hibernation again.”

Who brings them in? Passers-by or members of your team?

“People usually just ring us to tell us where the animal is and we pick them up and take them back to the shelter.”

I know from previous stories that, for example, there is a problem that bats are often injured in cities and end up at shelters like your. In the past, they were killed by workers at a bloc of unfinished flats, they can be injured and often those injuries are in inhabited areas, not in the wild. And it’s not just bats, of course. The Czech Ornithological Society named the Little Owl Bird of the Year recently because it is endangered and also is often injured or dies in what they labelled as ‘man-made traps’. One example, is when hollow fence posts or pipes are left uncovered around a cottage or garden colony, owners can cover such holes up with a plastic bottle cut in half and so on.

“A bunch of people, sometimes even the mayor, take part.”

“Yes, of course that is a problem and it is one which we deal with quite often. Where towns and cities meet and encroach more and more on animals’ habitat, that if often the result. Many of these animals are forced into inhabited areas by us because room for them is simply less.”

You work with animals day-to-day: at this point is there anything that still surprises you about their care?

“Yes. Every day is different and it is interesting. The feeling of releasing the animals back into the wild is amazing. That is the end result of everything we do. That is the outcome we do this for: to give the animals a second chance. That’s why we do it.”

When these animals come into your care what is the trickiest aspect of the job?

“It can be challenging mentally because we treat a lot of them and sometimes they are just very badly injured, too inured to help, and many of them die in your hands. It is also very-time consuming. It takes a big commitment and a lot of time to nurse many of these animals back to health or especially to care for babies. But animals are amazing and they deserve our attention and help. So it’s nice work.”

“The release of animals back into their habitat is a great feeling and is the reason we do what we do.”

In the press release, it’s mentioned that some people have phobias about bats; there are common myths that they will fly and get caught in your hair, they got a bad rap historically in connection with various legends. Do you come into contact also with people who dislike bats and do you try and change their minds?

“I would say so, yes. This release is a great opportunity for people to see bats up close so that is why we do it. Our rescue station, for example, is not open to the public because the animals need calm to recover, but we have a facility called the ParaZoo which people can visit and see the animals as well. And we are planning many more related events because we want to connect people with Nature again.”