Media release

Media release: Bats identified as severely threatened in Otago

Wednesday 11 October 2023

Otago Regional Council has released its Regional Threat Assessment for pekapeka or bats – the second in a series of threat assessments for indigenous species in Otago.

Pekapeka are Aotearoa New Zealand’s only native land mammals. These tiny bats are only the size of a thumb, have the wingspan of a hand, and weigh the amount of an AA battery.

Two bat species were identified as present in, or near, the Otago region: the pekapeka-tou-roa, the long-tailed bat, and pekapeka-tou-poto, the southern lesser short-tailed bat.

ORC’s Biodiversity Scientist, Dr Scott Jarvie, says, “It is amazing long-tailed bats have persisted at sites in the Otago region, but further information is needed to effectively protect them.

We need to understand more about their roosting areas, flyways and feeding areas and how they’re using the whole landscape so that protection measures can be employed. If their key threats are left unmanaged, their populations will continue to decline.”

ORC completed the first regional conservation status of bats in Otago in conjunction with a panel of bat experts from the Department of Conservation | Te Papa Atawhai (DOC: Moira Pryde), Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society (Catriona Gower), and independent consultants (Dr Gillian Dennis and Dr Ian Davidson-Watts).

Increasing interest from community groups about pekapeka has seen our only native land mammals become a focus for their ecological monitoring efforts,” he says.

ORC’s ECO Fund has supported Forest and Bird Society to protect long-tailed bat roost sites by controlling invasive mammal predators in the Tahakopa Valley, Catlins.

Both the long-tailed bat and southern lesser short-tailed bat have large home ranges and are highly mobile; characteristics that were taken into consideration during the assessment.

Long-tailed bat

The long-tailed bat has been recorded widely across Otago but is severely threatened, including by introduced predators, habitat loss, and human-induced climate change.

Long-tailed bats were assessed as Regionally Critical, the most severely threatened status. This means the species faces an immediate high risk of extinction in Otago.

Although the Catlins in south-eastern Otago and the Dart in western Otago have been identified by DOC as priority sites for management of long-tailed bats, all bat populations need conserving due to severe threats facing the species.

Long tailed batPekapeka-tou-roa/long-tailed bat. Photo: Ian Davidson-Watts


Southern lesser short-tailed bat

No recent records of southern lesser short-tailed bats have been confirmed in the Otago region.

However, the proximity of a southern lesser short-tailed bat record in the upper Eglinton valley just across the Otago-Southland border, and a growing population further down the Eglinton valley because of intensive mammalian predator control, raises the possibility that bats from this area could potentially be travelling across the regional boundary into Otago.

The southern lesser short-tailed bat was assessed as Regionally Data Deficient. This status is used where information is so lacking that an assessment is not possible.

Southern Lesser short tailed bat

Pekapeka-tou-poto/southern lesser short-tailed bat. Photo: Ian Davidson-Watts


New Zealand Threat Classification System

The regional threat classification system leverages off the New Zealand Threat Classification System administered by DOC on behalf of all New Zealanders.

Threat classifications play a key role in assessing trends in indigenous species.

DOC is tasked with managing indigenous species nationally, but regional and district councils have statutory obligations to maintain indigenous biodiversity under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), including to manage the habitats of threatened species.

A key requirement of managing the habitats of threatened species is to understand regional distribution and population sizes.


Conservation Status of Bat Species in Otago report

Otago Regional Council ECO Fund

New Zealand Threat Classification System