Estonia has chosen the bat as its 2020 animal of the year. 14 different species of bats have been registered in Estonia, accounting for more than one fifth of all mammals identified in the country.
Over the course of the year, several events dedicated to all the bat species found in Estonia will take place throughout the country, including an exhibition about bats that will open at the Estonian Museum of Natural History in mid-February. Experts, meanwhile, will continue working toward ensuring the improved protection of bats.
While about half of bat species found in Estonia are migratory and fly south for the winter, the rest hibernate in Estonia. During the winter, eight species of bats can be found in the country, hibernating primarily in man-made caves and vaults. The life of bats in winter has been researched in Estonia for more than 70 years already.
According to bat expert Rauno Kalda, in the current Year of the Bat, people must be reminded of why visiting large underground caves and tunnels may prove fatal for bats.
"In these places, you can find hundreds of specimens of various species," Kalda said. "Large colonies like this do not tolerate constant disturbances."
He explained that each disturbance will set off a chain reaction in a bat colony in which each bat that has woken up from hibernation will wake up other bats.
"Each bat has a limited supply of fat on which to survive the winter," Kalda said. "When they are disturbed too much during the winter, they run out of energy by spring and will die. Cellars are different. Going down into one's cellar to grab a jar of jam or potatoes poses no danger to bats. What is more dangerous is when cellars fall out of their traditional use and become dilapidated."
Bat researchers are planning to install a webcam at a bat hibernation site to show everyone what goes on there during the winter.
Bats are protected species across Europe.
All 12 species of bats positively identified as living in Estonia, including the brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), the Nathusius' pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii), the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), the soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), the northern bat (Eptesicus nilssonii), the common noctule (Nyctalus noctula), the pond bat (Myotis dasycneme), the Daubenton's bat (Myotis daubentonii), the Brandt's bat (Myotis brandtii), the whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus), the Natterer's bat (Myotis nattereri), and the parti-colored bat (Vespertilio murinus) are under category II protection in Estonia.
Editor: Aili Vahtla