Protecting Unique Cave Systems in Costa Rica Using Bats as Flagship Taxa

Stanimira Deleva

The main aim of the project is conservation of caves and cave-dwelling bats in Brunca region, Costa Rica.

Pteronotus davyi.

Pteronotus davyi.

Our project is focused on research and protection of cave dwelling bats and cave ecosystems in the Brunca region, Costa Rica, an area known to harbour the most complex cave system in the country and the most diverse bat community, though the information is still very poor. Our study will survey the cave systems in the region, thereby understanding what the most important sites for the bats are. Having information on the diversity of bats in these caves will provide an important tool to guide conservation priorities that will allow us to protect the most important and vulnerable sites.

Common sword nosed bat (Lonchorhina aurita), captured in harp trap.

Common sword nosed bat (Lonchorhina aurita), captured in harp trap.

This project will contribute to the conservation of the natural ecosystems of the Brunca region of Costa Rica by protecting important roosting sites of bats. In the tropics, bats are important seed dispersers, pollinators of many species of plants, and essential in controlling insect pests. Thus, protecting the resources bats need will consequently protect the habitats and organisms that rely on the ecosystem services bats provide.

The research part of the project will give valuable information about the local caves as an important habitat for bats and unique ecosystems, sources of fresh water and natural shelter for many species.

Discovering important underground bat roosting sites before being affected by human activities is essential for their conservation. For example, this study will determine what caves have significant species diversity, and which harbour vulnerable species, thereby deserving the highest conservation priorities. The project will have a strong education component – we will work with local groups, introducing bats as a valuable part of the tropical ecosystems because of their various ecological roles. Our research will also benefit the local communities by protecting bat species – an important group of mammals for the local ecosystems and economics. The information campaign will also raise awareness about the importance of vulnerable underground habitats.

The field research will be implemented together with a team of local cavers, thereby creating capacity for environmental protection at a local level. We will continue the good practices from this project and keep the cooperation between cavers and bat scientists for future conservation activities.

This project is pilot for the region and will serve as basis for deeper research on bats and cave ecosystems in general.

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