Are things going batty?

The following news report appeared on NewsTalk ZB, a national radio station, on Monday.

Bats attack in Rotorua


6:50AM Monday February 02, 2009

Source: Newstalk ZB

There are reports of bats attacking two men in Rotorua.

Taxi driver Ngaia Monaham says two men jumped in her car near Amohia Street just after 3.00am Monday.

She says they told a bizarre story of being attacked and bitten by bats.

Monaham says she did not believe them at first but then noticed they had bite marks on their arms.

She says she and another taxi driver went back to Amohia Street with a torch and found hundreds of bats flying around in the trees.

Sourced from Newstalk ZB


I rang Newstalk ZB and was told that the matter had been referred to the Department of Conservation who were investigating the report.

When I spoke to a representative of the Rotorua Department of Conservation he said that if the animals involved were Bats at this stage it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

They did however say that they would use the bat detectors that evening and see if they can come up with anything.

The following article appeared that seems to very much indicate that these were indeed Bats involved.

The follow-up stories can be seen at the following websites:




There are two species of New Zealand native Bat.

The Short Tailed Bat-Mystacina tuberculata and the Long Tail Bat-Chalinolobus tuberculatus.

What makes these bat's unique is that they are endemic at the family level.

The Short Tailed Bats distant ancestor arrived in New Zealand around 35 million years ago and from there diverged into two species one of those species producing three recognizable subspecies.

The hind legs of this species are remarkably strong and allow it to scuttle along the forest floor as swiftly as any mouse. These little animals weigh 12 to 16 g, and a body length of 60 to 70 mm and a wingspan of 280 to 300 mm.

They are now confined to 9 locations on the North island to locations in the South Island and to offshore islands, Little Barrier and Codfish.

The main habitat is large areas of native bush with older trees that have epiphytes and cavities which these animals favor for colonial roosting. When roosting the bats will stay in one roosting area for 5 to 10 days and then move on to another roost.

There were once millions of these tiny creatures but now they are reduced to under 40,000 and are considered nationally endangered.

The Long Tailed Bat is actually slightly smaller than its short tailed cousin being 42 to 63 mm in length.

The average wingspan is 240 to 300 mm.

This species is a relative newcomer whose ancestor arrived in the last million years. Widely distributed throughout all three islands, this species was extremely abundant in the 1800s but is now gradually declining in population.

It prefers any type of forest including exotics. Roosting is generally in well insulated cavities well above ground level and is not restricted to trees, with caves and crevices in rock faces also used.

These bats are very social animals and can be seen in the hundreds.

They are classified as nationally vulnerable in the North Island and nationally endangered in the South Island.

There is however a third species which once existed in New Zealand, the Greater Short Tailed Bat-M. robusta which is now extinct or presumed so.

Some fossil records seem to show that this species preferred Northern Island climates to those of the cooler South. Unlike their smaller cousins these larger bats up to 90 mm in body length were the largest bats in New Zealand.

Unlike M. tuberculata these bat's preferred to crawl along the forest floor and showed little inclination to flight, verging on becoming a totally terrestrial species.

This species was supposed to have died out in 1967 however reports of bats sightings still come in with several coming from the area of Putauhina, Big South Cape Island and Solomons Island, interestingly all islands of Stewart Island the southernmost of the New Zealand group, in 1999 echolocation was recorded by Colin O'Donnell of the Department of conservation that did not fit the currently known species of bat's. Two unconfirmed sightings also came from Big South Cape Island however; reports were sketchy and could not be confirmed. The bats are therefore listed as critically endangered.

As these bat species originally came from Australia in modern times there has also been an incidence of another Australian species making its way to New Zealand shores. During the 1960s a large fruit bat was seen in Auckland, regrettably the poor animal flew and power lines and was electrocuted. It is not inconceivable however for another species of bat to enter New Zealand and establish itself, especially with the strange climate change, tropical storms in Queensland and winds from the Tasman Sea.


As for the bats seen in Rotorua the most likely candidate considering the exotic forests in the area and the trees in which they were seen, to be Long Tailed Bat's perhaps driven into the urban areas looking for food.

After looking at video footage of the incident had bite marks to appear to be caused by small teeth which these insectivores most definitely have.

Obviously the reason for the attack was curiosity as I believe the bats may have been getting ready to roost for the day and were disturbed by these interlopers. The main question remains however is why are they coming into urban areas when it has never happened before?

Strange days indeed.

Things have definitely become unusual, here in New Zealand normally around this time of year, late summer, we have masses of aphids.

These are normally the bane of every rose grower, the tender shoots of most roses at this time are a crawling green mass of bloated aphids accompanied by the ants which milk them. Using this veritable meat market for food are usually Praying Mantis, ladybirds and small Waxeyes-Zosterops lateralis.

This year however, things are very different indeed. There has been not a single sign of any aphids whatsoever, along with them have gone the above-mentioned predators. It almost seems as if there has been a collapse in the food chain. I have done a check through different areas of the country and this phenomena is not just localised.

It's unusual but when I mentioned this on one of the lists someone was saying that they had just read the latest Fortean Times and there was an article in there about acorns being missing in the Northern Hemisphere and how animals such as squirrels were starving to death.

This may tie in with a recent bat attack in Rotorua which I shall mention more of in the next blog.

If indeed the food chain has collapsed these poor animals may have come into a suburban area looking for food which they could no longer find in the Bush.

If it certainly is the case then we can expect a lot of odd animal behaviour in the months to come.

It certainly shows something is going on globally at the major question is what has caused the collapse?