Arpat Ozgul / Andrei Furman

Bat Research Project in Turkish Thrace

Istiranca MountainsTurkeyBats, Europe, Mammals14 Aug 2000

Although bat research in Turkey has been conducted since the 1950's, there has been little systematic study, resulting in relatively poor knowledge about bat abundance and population distribution. This project will survey the Istiranca Mountains, the highest area of Turkish Thrace, bordering Bulgaria, and aims to identify the populations of cave-dwelling bat species and locate the main underground roosts. As the area is relatively undisturbed by humans, and is rich in karst formations and other habitats, it is thought that it hosts large colonies of cave dwelling bats, probably including various near-threatened and conservation dependent species.

This data will then be used to assess the conservation status and requirements of bat species and will contribute to the setting of a coherent conservation policy for European bats.

Project Update: April 2001

We have successfully finished the winter survey of over 30 roosts, most of which are new to literature. Some of these appear to be really promising sites for the conservation of European Bats. Two weeks ago, in a cave close to the Bulgarian border we counted some 35,000 bats hibernating. The rest of the sites also yielded encouraging populations.Our summer surveys begin in mid-May, and we aim to complete these by the beginning of June.

Final Report

We have now completed all our surveys, covering both winter and summer periods. We studied 33 caves and recorded 37,000 bats representing 13 species. 24 of these caves were studied for the first time. Eight species (R. euryale, R. ferrumequinum, R. hipposideros, M. schreibersii, M. myotis, M. blythi, M. capaccinii and M. emarginatus) were present in large numbers, whereas the other five species (R. meheyli, M. daubentonii, M. mystacinus, M. bechsteinii, and P. austriacus) were represented by only a few individuals. There were very distinct differences between our summer and winter counts, so we assume that there were underground roosts that we did not find.

The Dupnisa cave system provides shelter for nearly 30,000 bats representing five species, and is one of the biggest hibernaculum in southeastern Europe. Unfortunately its popularity among cavers and local visitors provides a serious threat for the bats' survival. We believe that public access should be denied at least during winter months. The Koyunbaba cave is the largest nursery in the region, hosting in summer almost 23,000 bats of 6 species, in mixed nursery colonies. However a nearby quarry is a major threat to this cave which needs immediate protection to guard against its destruction.

Three of the caves we studied need further research before we can made firm recommendations about their conservation status, although we suspect that they may be internationally important.

We hope that our findings will provide a base for the creation of an effective conservation program for bats and their habitats. We will do our best to secure the right conservation status for the most important roosts and to ensure continuous monitoring of the main colonies. But we fear that unless more effort is directed toward protecting bats in the region, fast human population growth and associated urbanisation will outpace any conservation efforts.

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