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Which Bat Species Use Buildings?

The order Chiroptera comprises 19 living families, with at least one species in each family known to roost in buildings (Figs. 14.1 and 14.2), with the notable exceptions of Furipteridae, Mystacinidae, Myzopodidae, Natalidae, and Thyropteridae. Quite often, only local residents are aware of the occurrence of synanthropic bat species. The chapter on bats and urbanization (Reichel-Jung and Threlfall 2015) provides a meta-analytic perspective on bats living in urban landscapes. Many of the species included in their analysis also roost in buildings; thus, the general patterns derived from their study may also hold true for aspects of roost choice in synanthropic bats.

Fig. 14.1 Example of synanthropic bats that use both natural roosts and buildings. The greater sac-winged bat, Saccopteryx bilineata, shown here in Costa Rica, forms colonies in the cavities formed by large buttress roots of canopy trees. In the absence of such trees, this species will roost on the exterior walls of buildings (or inside if the building is abandoned as shown in the right picture; © left picture Knörnschild M, right picture Voigt CC)

Fig. 14.2 Colony of Megaderma lyra under a tin roof of a building in India

Human–Bat Conflict in Buildings and the Legal Protection of Synanthropic Bats

Buildings constructed specifically as human dwellings are usually well maintained and protected against opportunistic invasions by unwanted animals. Unfortunately, synanthropic bats are unwanted by most humans, which generate conflicts (Gareca

et al. 2007). Accordingly, synanthropic bats are persecuted virtually worldwide, even if the legal framework may define this action as criminal. Documented cases of humans removing bats from buildings are apparent across the entire geographic range of synanthropic bats (e.g., Merzlikin 2002), but most cases remain unnoticed by law enforcement agencies even where bats are legally protected. Indeed, bats are legally protected in only a few countries. For example, bats are protected in countries of the European Union according to the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC). Also, migratory bats are specifically protected in countries that have signed the United Nations convention on the “Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals” (Lyster 1989). In some countries, conservationists have established action plans for threatened bat species, including suggestions for protecting synanthropic bats (Aguirre et al. 2010). However, these recommendations have not yet been converted into some form of legal framework. In African and Asian countries, bats are not protected under specific legislation. In summary, the level of protection of synanthropic bats by national or international legislation is highly variable and clearly deficient.

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