Cats are eating New Zealand's critically endangered bats: research-Xinhua

Cats are eating New Zealand's critically endangered bats: research

Source: Xinhua| 2022-08-10 13:40:16|Editor: huaxia

WELLINGTON, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand's long-tailed bat is seen as a tasty snack by cats. New research confirms what has long been suspected - feral and domestic cats are repeatedly hunting and eating the country's native bats.

Researchers report an observation where seven of these critically-endangered bats, or pekapeka-tou-roa in Maori, were killed or injured by cats in a rural landscape over two years.

Bats are the only land mammal native to New Zealand.

According to a research paper published in the New Zealand Journal of Zoology on Wednesday, there is little data available about confirmed attacks in New Zealand, but in Britain, cats are thought to kill as many as 250,000 bats annually, so the researchers suggest the full impact in New Zealand is "substantial."

Department of Conservation (DOC) Science Advisor Kerry Borkin examined the gut contents of a feral cat trapped in the North Island's Pureora Forest Park and found the remains of a lesser short-tailed bat. She also recorded the reoccurring hunting of long-tailed bats by a pet cat owned by a nearby household living on a rural property, who discovered pekapeka remains around their home.

"The two cases we report on are just the tip of the iceberg," Borkin said, adding not just feral cats killing and eating the precious pekapeka, pet cats are killing and injuring them too, which is an important point to know in protecting New Zealand's only native land mammals.

The two cases explored in the research demonstrate how a single cat - feral or domesticated - can impact a local bat population, she said.

Although not all cat attacks on pekapeka will result in its death, they will reduce the overall likelihood of survival for individual bats and populations, Borkin said, adding native bats can be found in towns, cities, farms, and forests - if cats are there too, then bats are at risk of being killed.

Domestic cat owners who live in areas with bats and other native wildlife can make their pets more conservation-friendly with a number of approaches outlined on the DOC website.

DOC has a legislated mandate to control feral cats on public conservation land and has an advisory role to the National Cat Management Strategy Group, Borkin said.