Based on the vote, which took place between November 2019 – January 2020, we can say that the barbastelle is the Bat of the Year 2020 in Romania. Of the 656 votes received, the barbastelle received 299 (45.6%), with the giant noctule gathering 206 votes (31.4%), and the parti-colored bat 151 (23.0%). At the same time, colleagues from BatLife Europe, through the vote of organizations from over 35 countries, designated the barbastelle as Bat of the Years 2020-2021 in Europe.

The Barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus) has a nose for old and valuable forests, because it prefers to live in primeval, ancient forests and in forests with many old aged trees. Thus the presence (or absence) of the species may provide clues about the conservation level, the health of the respective forest. If the species is present in more accessible or anthropic areas (ex. the Natura 2000 site ROSCI0074 Făgetul Clujului – Valea Morii), this fact speaks about the high value of these areas and about an adequate management by custodians.

In appearance, the Barbastelle is a medium sized species, with short and snub nose. The ears are triangular and are, quite like the nose, short. Their fur has is dark, with blackish color. The species is resistant to cold and often hibernates in underground roosts (caves, abandoned mines, cellars). In these types of roosts we can often meet them at the entrance area, where they easily endure sub zero temperatures. In rare cases we can see colonies of dozens of specimens, forming clusters occupying cracks in caves. However, if the weather warms up a little, barbastelles in the caves can easily continue their hibernation in the nearby hollow trees.

Based on scientific literature, the barbastelle seems to be attracted to forests with diverse structures: diversity in tree height and age, as well as the existence of different structures on the edge of the forest. In adequate habitats, the barbastelle colonies actually use a network of hollow trees, moving to a new hollow after a few days. The species hunts above and below the canopy, but also at the edge of the vegetation. It has a fast and agile flight, with hunting areas at a distance of max. 7 km from the roost. It is a sedentary species, with seasonal migrations below 40 km between summer and winter roost.

Because they prefer old forests, and are not present in the urban environment, there is rarely a direct conflict with humans. However, barbastelles are still strongly affected by inadequate forestry practices, given that their favorite roosts are hollow trees, the loose bark of old trees and even dead wooden material. If old trees are cut down and the dead wood is removed from the forest, local populations can be adversely affected. In addition, the use of pesticides and insecticides can indirectly lead to the poisoning of specimens.

In most European countries, the species is considered rare and endangered. Recent national official reports in Romania mistakenly indicate a maximum number of 4.500 barbastelles at the country level. Despite the fact that we know of dozens of locations where the species hibernates, as well as an underground location, where during the winter 400-450 bats are hibernating. The species is present also in more anthropic locations, such as the Făgetul Clujului forest. Combined with the number of caves in Romania (over 10.000) and the presence of virgin, quasi-virgin and high-value forests in several areas of the country, we consider that the national report greatly underestimates the barbastelle population size in Romania.

The species is strictly protected at European level, respectively in most countries in Europe, including Romania. It is a species of community importance, requiring the designation of protected areas (Natura 2000 sites), in order to ensure long-term protection, based on specific conservation measures.

Conservation status (based on IUCN):

Legislation:

  • Law 13/1993 (Bern Convention)
  • Law 13/1998 (Bonn Convention)
  • Law 90/2000 (EUROBATS)
  • Law 49/2011 (Habitats Directive)
  • MO 656/2014

The protection of Barbastelles can be achieved by the protection of feeding habitats and roosts. If old trees are cut down with preference, and dead wooden material is systematically removed from the forest, than the species cannot find adequate roosts, and the population will be affected. It is advisable to have 7-10 hollow trees per hectare, representing approx. 25-30 hollows, and to keep the dead wooden material in the habitat. In case of underground roosts it is recommended to avoid tourism and caving activities during the hibernation period (November 1 to March 31). More about responsible tourism here.