Comfortable wintering: Zoo gets ready for hibernation of bats

November 6
Parks and pedestrian areas

The Moscow Zoo's Bat Wintering Centre accepts bats now. It opens for the third year in a row. During the first days after the centre opened, Moscow citizens have already brought 25 bats for wintering. Brown bat is among the guests, found for the first time in Moscow region. Usually, brown bats live in the south of the European part of Russia, in Orenburg region, in the Caucasus and in Volga region.

Since the centre opened in 2017, zoologists have saved over 300 chiropterans. These include parti-coloured bat, common noctule, Nathusius' pipistrelle and brown long-eared bat. They are red-listed in Moscow.

With the onset of cold weather, bats living in the city look for a place to hibernate. They usually prefer attics of the buildings and industrial premises, and ventilation shafts. If something interrupts their sleep (for example, some noise or draft), they wake up and die because of the cold and lack of food. To help the bats survive the winter and preserve the natural population of these animals in the city, the Moscow Zoo opened a special Bat Wintering Centre.

'The centre's concern is to preserve the natural population of bats in Moscow. A bat can get injured or even die if it chooses an improper hibernation place. When animals do not fatten up enough over the summer, they might not survive the winter, wake up earlier and die without food. Our centre's employees want to change people's attitude to bats and show that sometimes they need our help and care. Anyone can save a bat in trouble. To do this, just bring the animal to our zoologists,' said Svetlana Akulova, Director General of the Moscow Zoo.

A bat has to weigh at least 16g (depending on the species) to survive the winter. First, keepers check for injuries, assess general health and weigh the animals. If an animal is underweight, it receives extra feeding before it is allowed to hibernate. Basically, bats feed on mealworm larvae.

After an animal reaches the required weight, it is placed in a special box in the refrigerator, with the temperature inside maintained between +5°C - +7°C, perfect for a hibernating bat.

10 of the 25 animals brought to the centre have already fallen asleep in the refrigerator. The rest bats are gaining weight required for proper hibernation.

During the winter, zoologists monitor the weight loss dynamics of each bat: every two weeks, they have weight check, after which (if everything is OK), a bat goes back to the refrigerator.

Bats are kept in the state of suspended animation from four to seven months. Usually, they wake up in April. Before releasing the animals into the wild, the Moscow Zoo keepers feed them up for a couple of weeks. Bats get stronger and regain the ability to fly in a special aviary. They are also ringed, with a personal number assigned to each bat. This helps zoologists to monitor their population. Usually, bats are released into the wild in early May, when warm weather sets in.

This year, the Moscow Zoo hosted the animals in the summer, too, when they usually breed and care for their offspring. During the summertime, the temperature often dropped below the climate normal. Citizens found and brought the bats affected by sudden drops of temperature to the Zoo. From May to July, Muscovites brought more than 50 bats, including pregnant females and the young aged three days to a couple of weeks. To return the offspring to their natural environment, experts took them to the Moscow region in a special house. They had it fixed on a tree branch, with feeders every day supplied with food by volunteers. After the bats had accustomed to the new location, they left their shelter.

According to zoologists, there are six species of bats in Moscow: Daubenton's bat, parti-coloured bat, Nathusius' pipistrelle, Brandt's bat, brown long-eared bat and common noctule. With their small numbers, all the species are red-listed in Moscow as rare and endangered.

If you found a bat, you can get an advice of the Bat Wintering Centre’s specialists by calling +7 (968) 476-88-06 and agree on its accommodation. Find detailed information about the centre on the official Zoo's website

Today, Zoo inhabitants are getting ready for the cold weather. So, pygmy hippopotamus Ksyusha has already moved into its warm enclosure. In cold period, the animal lives in a special inner room with proper temperature and humidity maintained. It has two pools for Ksyusha to swim. Other heat-loving animals, including bush cow, dik-diks, sable antelopes, Madagascar cats, Bornean and Sumatran orangutans and Asian elephants have also been transferred to warm enclosures.

Source: mos.ru

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