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Curious creatures . . . South Canterbury residents may get to see a long-tailed bat during a tour organised by Environment Canterbury. PHOTO: DOC

by Greta Yeoman

South Canterbury residents will have the chance to meet native long-tailed bats later this month.

The Department of Conservation, Environment Canterbury and forest company Port Blakely have teamed up to hold a “night safari” at Raincliff to see the native creatures.

The first event was held on Tuesday, but the second will be held on February 19.

While the late-night tour is free, places are limited and bookings are required.

The event, which starts at 9pm, will include a trip on the “batmobile” to the forest location, then a walk along a 2km trail.

Environment Canterbury biodiversity officer Rob Carson-Iles said he is hopeful people will get to see the long-tailed bats, but the team will also have technology on hand to listen to bat calls.

“Very few people in New Zealand have had the chance to see native bats, so this is a really special opportunity.”

He hoped it would raise awareness of the “little population” of native bats and the initiatives ECan was working on with other organisations to protect them. These include predator control and protecting the bats’ roosting habitat.

The New Zealand long-tailed bat is classified as “endangered – nationally critical” by the Department of Conservation.

In South Canterbury, they are found within a triangle from Geraldine to Cave and down to Temuka.

Their total population is estimated to be between just 200-300, across six separate colonies.

Raincliff Forest is one of the largest colonies of bats in South Canterbury.

Bats are nocturnal mammals and feed wholly on insects they catch in flight.

To reserve your spot or for more details, contact George Iles at the Department of Conservation on 027565-8683.