UNEP/EUROBATS

Baseline Survey and Monitoring of Bats in Lebanon, 2012-2013

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This survey, funded by the Italian Ministry of the Environment and protection of  Land and Sea allowed the gathering of information on the species present and some threats that they face. Besides, part of this fund was used to train young university student volunteers on how to monitor bats.

The bat survey was initiated during late winter between December 2012 and February 2013 due to the warm weather that delayed the hibernation of bats. Members of the caving club assisted in visiting caves and bats were identified through direct observation and photography. Using bat detectors for identification was sometimes possible since in late winter, some bats tend to become active again. Population size was estimated by direct count, yet when the population was too big, the number was estimated by taking a small square and then multiplying it by the scale to get the approximate amount of bats. All data including the name of the cave, date, location, GPS points, species and number of bats were recorded.

Eighteen senior biology students were trained to monitor bats through seminars, workshops and field visits to caves. To evaluate the efficiency of the training the students were tested. Tests include theoretical as well as practical tests.

Forty sites were visited all over Lebanon, out of which five were visited for the first time. The result of the survey revealed the following observations:

There is a noticeable positive difference from last year in the number of the fruit bats in the colony of Berqayel cave, which had been the biggest colony in the Middle East before it faced a big massacre in 2011. Moreover, the awareness program that had been conducted in the cave site after the massacre has paid off, and the cave is now protected by the municipality.

 

Concerning the large hibernating colonies of Miniopterus schreibersii of Er Rouiss cave that disappeared last year, a small population was recorded this year at a different location within Er Rouiss cave away from the visitors’ pathway.

Due to the heavy rain this year, Al Tarrash Cave in Mount Lebanon was flooded. The water level was about three meters high in the cave, which explains the absence of bats at this location.

Two caves (Akroum and Zebdeen Caves) in Akkar were visited for the first time. Myotis myotis was recorded for the first time during the winter surveys.  Another new cave (ALhab Cave) in Tripoli was found to harbor a big colony of Myotis capaccinii. Apparently, the winter of 2013 had shorter cold periods and came later than the previous years, and as a result, bats were found in small numbers. Some human disturbance was encountered in some cave sites like AlHesken Cave of Mount Lebanon, where bullets and evidence of fire were found inside the cave.

The students took several sessions on

·       Bat identification: how to identify bats in the roost, what features to look for, and how to count them (Figure 3)

·       Importance of bats: Students were given lectures on the importance of bats, their role in nature, and how to spread the message to the general public

·       Bat surveys: Students were introduced on the ways to survey bats, how to enter caves safely, and the equipment needed.

After two months the students sat for an evaluation exam. The exam consisted of theoretical as well as practical questions. All the students did well with an average of 85%. They identified most of the bats and had a nice approach towards spreading the message of the importance of bats and the necessity to conserve them.

Future plans are to invest more in the young generation who will hopefully continue to work on bats and help to spread the information on the importance of their conservation.

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