TALLINN - Estonia has chosen bat, of which specimens of 14 species have been found in this country, as animal of the year 2020.
Over the course of the year, several events dedicated to all the bat species found here will take place all over Estonia, including an exhibition about bats that will open at the Estonian Museum of Natural History in mid-February. Simultaneously, experts will continue working towards ensuring better protection of bats.
Where about half of the bat species found here are migratory and fly to the south for winter, the rest find wintering places in Estonia. In winter, bats of eight species can be found in Estonia, hibernating here mostly in man-made caves and vaults. The life of bats in winter has been researched in Estonia already for more than 70 years.
Bat expert Rauno Kalda said that in the current Year of the Bat people need to be reminded why visiting large underground caves and tunnels may prove fatal for bats.
"In these places you can find hundreds of specimens of different species. Large colonies like this do not tolerate constant disturbance," Kalda said.
He explained that each act of disturbance will set off a chain reaction in a colony, where each bat that has woken up from hibernation will wake up others.
"Each bat has a limited supply of fat to survive the winter. When they are disturbed too much during the winter, they run out of energy by the spring and will perish. Things are different with the cellars of dwellings. Going to a cellar to bring a jar of jam or potatoes poses no danger to bats. Cellars becoming dilapidated and falling out of traditional use is way more dangerous," he said.
Bat researchers are planning to install a webcam at a bat wintering site to show to everyone what is happening there during the winter.
Bats are protected species across Europe.