There is a big chance that outdoor enthusiasts have eaten today fruits or other products that have been obtained with the help of bats. We are not aware of this, but without bats we would waive many enjoyable aspects of our lives, including chocolate! Currently there are many human activities that endanger the life of bats, but fortunately we are also the ones who can act in order to protect bats. We can decide to have responsible tourism.

Our country has one of the most diverse and large populations of bats in Europe. Two of the largest colonies of bats in Europe are located in Romania, each with approximately 100.000 bats. To protect bats, we can first of all spread real information about them and about their benefits. But the outdoor community, especially tourists with an affinity for caves, have at hand a very specific way of protecting bats, namely the right attitude towards bats when they encounter them in caves.

Bats have two critical periods in their annual cycle: the nursery / birth period (15 May – 15 August), and the hibernation period (1 November – 31 March). In the first case, nursery colonies include females and new-born pups. If we disturb the colony, helpless pups can fall out of the colony and may not survive. Smoke from camp fires made at the entrance of a cave or in their vicinity can reach inside the cave, and obviously can have negative effects on the colony. There are also several scientific studies demonstrating the negative effects of human presence around bats.

In case of hibernating colonies, we need to know that any external stimulus (noise, light, smoke, open fire, photography flashes, touch and even steam coming out of a speleological suit) can wake up bats. If frequent unplanned awakenings happen in the colony, it can lead to the rapid depletion of the bat’s fat reserves. These fat reserves have been accumulated by bats not to deal with unplanned awakenings, but to survive the hibernating period without food. If bats wake up several times during the winter, their chance of survival significantly lowers.

It is very important to avoid bat colonies, but also solitary bats in order to not disturb them in these two critical periods. It is also recommended that, in the case of caves used by large colonies, we plan our trips outside the critical periods. In addition, the following is recommended:

  1. The access into caves or other roosts should be done in order, silence and calm, in compliance with safety requirements, and without disturbing bats, by staying on marked trails or existing tourist routes, and by using only electric light sources (the use of carbide powered light sources in Romanian caves is prohibited by Decision nr. 1 of the Speleological Heritage Commission, from 12.09.2012).
  2. Proceed on trails without illuminating or photographing bats;
  3. Do NOT touch or deliberately knock down bats;
  4. Do NOT capture or try to hit bats in flight;
  5. Stay as little as possible (less than 1 minute) in the vicinity of bats;
  6. Avoid camping in the underground; if camping in caves is strictly necessary (ex. for safety reasons), camp only at distances greater than 100 meters from bats;
  7. Do NOT create smoke inside caves or other shelters, or at their entrances;
  8. At caves or other shelters, or at their entrances avoid installing and/or using equipment that produces constant and excessive noise and/or light; Exception are the personal light sources, used for staying safe;
  9. Do NOT organize events (ex. concerts, festivals, fairs, religious activities, liturgies, etc.) involving light, noise or other kinds of pollutions inside caves, or at less than 200 m of their entrances;
  10. Do NOT install infrastructure which can cause disturbance to bats, or which can cause changes in the microclimate of roosts (ex. gates, artificial walls, ditches), or which can prevent the access of bats to caves or other roosts;
  11. Plan destructive explorations (diggings, explosives) by taking into consideration the presence of bats;
  12. Plan rescue exercises in caves by taking into consideration the presence of bats.

The original article (author: Szilárd Bücs) was published on the M&C Outdoor page. Information on how to correctly plan caving activities in Romanian caves can be obtained from us or from competent authorities. Details regarding the legislation in force for the protection of bats may be obtained by consulting the dedicated section on this topic.

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