Before the end of the autumn, the Moscow Zoo will open the first rehabilitation centre to serve as a winter shelter for bats. The wing-handed mammals will be fed, treated and then released back into the wild once it is warm again. A cool chamber will be equipped for their comfortable winter hibernation.
“Winter in the Russian latitudes is the most difficult period for the chiropterans. They hibernate during the cold season. In the city, bats can’t always find a hideaway where they can make it through the winter. So they do need our help,” said Moscow Zoo Director General Svetlana Akulova.
Akulova added that out in the wilds these mammals use natural shelters for hibernation, such as caves, cracks in rocks and hollows in old tree trunks. In cities, bats are increasingly occupying attics, spaces between roof beams and ventilation shafts. Unfortunate choices and any disturbance during winter may lead to bats dying of cold or starvation.
“It only seems that a big city is no place for bats. There are currently six species in Moscow, including Daubenton’s bat, parti-coloured bat, Nathusius’ pipistrelle, Brandt’s bat, brown long-eared bat and common noctule. Their population is not high. They all are on the Moscow’s rare and endangered species list. However, in winter people come across bat nests and don’t know what to do with them,” Svetlana Akulova says.
The centre is preparing thoroughly for its first guests. A chamber is already installed in a special room to imitate a comfortable hibernation environment. The temperature in the chamber does not fall below 5˚C and does not go over 7˚C, which creates the best conditions for a hibernating bat.
Before placing the mammals into the hibernation chamber, zoologists will examine each of them carefully. For example, a bat must weigh at least 14 grams. If its weight is lower, it will be fed until it reaches the healthy range. Bats’ diet usually consists of insects and their larvae.
Svetlana Akulova noted that the rehabilitation centre can accept at least twenty bats over a season. To help the chiropterans, member of the public can call +7 (968) 476-88-06 to obtain zoologist’s professional advice and to report a bat in need of help.