Nyctalus - Helping bats injured in the city return to flight


Nyctalus is a chapter of the Czech Union for Nature Conservation made up of young zoologists and specialists, focussing on the plight of bats injured in Czech towns and cities. Every year dozens of the creatures are retrieved in poor condition, sometimes having suffered cruelly at the hands of humans. One example: in February workers near Prague killed hundreds of the creatures uncovered in pre-fab apartment buildings. On the other hand, a good number were saved by Nyctalus and some bats will be released this Thursday in Prague’s Stromovka Park.

I caught up with Nyctalus’s Helena Jahelková this week to ask her about the kinds of bats the organisation helps.

“We help all species of bats that can be found in cities and towns: mainly we receive nyctalus noctula – bats, along with serotine bats, parti-colored bats and whiskered bats and occasionally other species common in populated areas. Cities sometimes present something of a problem: for example, right now pre-fab apartments throughout the Czech Republic are seeing a lot of renovation, and that often leads to bats being driven from hidden colonies. They are discovered and sometimes people don’t obey the law, even killing them, or behaving cruelly.”

Do you think that not enough is known among the general public about bats?

“Compared to when I began ten years ago, I think people have at last began to understand them more as animals and not as something negative. In the Czech Republic there are a lot of professionals, from researchers to those who protect the animals, who engage in projects, working with the public and so on, talking part in events like European Bat Nights.”

What exactly are those?

“It’s a single night chosen by more organizations to hold seminars and epical events. We show the public how bats are detected and the animals’ social behaviour…”

Everyone in your organisation has certification to work with the animals: what does it permit you to do?

“Basically, we can rescue bats, handle them, and keep them at a stable location, right now in Černošice; some members can keep specimens temporarily at home. Whenever there is a veterinary problem we of course contact vets. Right now we are very lucky to be cooperating with a vet, Pavlína Hájková, who works at Prague Zoo, who told us she would help us out for free back when we were in financial difficulties, although now things are better when grants come through.”

When you have animals like this in your care, what would you say was typical behaviour?

“Typical behaviour is difficult to describe: but usually what visitors see is very busy quarrelling. They arte colonial bats and they like society. They are really very noisy and sometimes they also bite each other. Mainly they fight over food. It’s not uncommon to see two bats fighting over a meal worm: one will pull it out of the other’s mouth. It can be very funny to see.”

You mentioned mealworms there: is that the main part of their diet?

“Yes, this is the main part of their diet, but their diet must be enriched by vitamins. Even the mealworms must have a special diet! Not only leaves and vegetables but also dry dog granules.”

What about trust? Does it take a while for bats to get used to being handled by specialists?

“It is different for each species and different for each bat. For example, noctule or pipsitral bats are very, very easy to tame.”

How long, on average, do specimens stay in human care?

“It depends. This batch wintered with us now but it varies. They stayed with our organisation for about four months. IT can happened that we accept individual bats or even colonies in November, at other times we take in males or females, and they stay with us until the spring. When the weather improves we begin preparing them for a return to nature. Sometimes in the summer we let them fly where they were found or a suitable area, usually by a stream which helps there orientation.”

Was there one success story you still remember where a bat survived against all odds?

“Definitely! I remember one bat, the first we helped in our organisation, who we named Stázinka who was badly hurt. We thought she would be ‘handicapped’ after suffering inflammation of the legs. She was very weak but she wanted to live so much she eventually recovered and we were able to release her. Another was Peťa, one of my favourites. He survived and never once bit me! He’s the most ‘cuddly’ bat in our organisation!”

If you’d like to help our find out about how you can help, or would like to take part in a hands-on seminar on working with injured bats, visit Nyctalus’s website: