The lesser short-tailed bat is an ancient and endemic species to New Zealand. It is now found in only a few scattered sites. There are three recognised subspecies (northern, central and southern) that together represent the only species in its family, Mystacinidae. The New Zealand Department of Conservation lists the northern and southern subspecies as ‘nationally endangered’ and the central subspecies as ‘declining’. The species is listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN and sits as the 56th species on the EDGE mammal list. The northern subspecies is most restricted, being considered now to occur in only one population on the offshore island Te Hauturu-o-Toi (Little Barrier Island).
Lesser short-tailed bats face threats from exotic mammalian predators and the methods used to control these predators along with habitat loss. Translocation has been proposed as a valuable management tool to secure extant subspecies and increase conservation security. However, this raises substantial challenges as there has never been a successful translocation of an echolocating micro-bat globally. Past translocation attempts of short-tailed bats have met with mixed (but promising) success. Two main issues have been identified, based on knowledge of bat ecology and experience with past translocation attempts: strong homing behaviour and disease.
Our work with this species started in 2014 when John and Stefano facilitated a working group of short-tailed bat specialists through a structured decision making analysis to develop a revised translocation plan. Over two collaborative workshops, intervening research, and taking 12 months to complete, the bat working group now has an agreed strategy forward. Our next steps are to assist in securing resources to implement this conservation strategy.
For more information on our involvement please check out the collection of relevant news posts below or contact us for more information.