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Keepers at Chester Zoo take on bi-annual 'bat catch'
10:30am Friday 22nd March 2013 in News
HUNDREDS of bats at Chester Zoo are currently having their health checks as part of a massive task.
Keepers are checking on more than 400 bats in their bi-annual bat catch.
Twice a year the zoo’s Seba's short-tailed, Rodrigues and Livingstone’s fruit bats are caught and counted and their genders determined to make sure that the gender ratios are equal.
It also gives keepers a chance to check on any new babies.
Rodrigues fruit bats are a particularly threatened species and are classed as critically endangered in the wild, so knowing their exact number is vital in terms of breeding of a viable insurance population in zoos.
Team manager David White said: “It’s vitally important that we know the ratios of males to females. That’s because sometimes individuals have to be moved to other zoos to breed in order to make sure we keep the gene pool diverse and conserve a healthy, viable population of critically endangered Rodrigues’s fruit bats.”
In the 1970s the species almost went extinct as numbers dropped to just 70 bats.
But on-going conservation work and habitat protection in Mauritius - which the zoo has helped support for a number of years - together with an effective breeding programme in zoos, research and education has since seen the population steadily increase.
Mr White added: “It’s really pleasing to know that there’s a thriving breeding programme now established in zoos, safeguarding the species’ future should disaster ever strike again in the wild.
“We must, however, marry the good work here with more work in the bats’ homeland and keep striving to protect and restore habitat and educate local people about this brilliant species.”
Keepers also take the opportunity to give each and every one of the bats - over 400 live in the zoo’s bat cave, which is the largest free-flying bat house in Europe - a general health check; weighing them and measuring their wing spans in the process.