The “International Bat Night” event has been celebrated worldwide since 1997, which is implemented by the “Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats” (EUROBATS) organization. It starts from the last week of August and is held all over the world.
The event is supported by the Armenian Association of Mammalogists NGO. The goal of the project is to present the bats distributed in Armenia, their biology and conservation issues. Such events help our society to preserve the rich but at the same time threatened bat fauna of Armenia.
In 2022 The “International Bat Night” event was held in Armenia on October 4, the International Day of Animal Protection. The event was organized by the employees of the Department of Zoology of YSU Biology Faculty (Ofelia Yelabekyan, Seda Adamyan) and members of the “Armenian Association of Mammalogists” environmental non-governmental organization (graduates of YSU Biology Faculty, Tatevik Harutyunyan, Anna Tadevsoyan). Entry to the event was free and students from Yerevan State University and other higher educational institutions, as well as students from abroad and senior and middle school students, took an active part. Lecturers of the Faculty of Biology of YSU Astghik Ghazaryan, Georgi Papov and the director of the Armenian Association of Mammalogists Tigran Hayrapetyan, as well as professor of the Khachatur Abovyan Pedagogical University Samvel Pipoyan gave lectures.
The participants of the event tried to use the modern methods of studying bats: they tried to do mist netting on the river, to record the flying bats with handheld and stationary ultrasound detectors, and analys with special software. Discussions were held on the importance of bats, their role in nature and also their role as a reservoir for various viruses, including the coronavirus.
Field surveys to check several caves were conducted from the 10th of December through the 21st of December 2022. The main goal of this survey was to check those caves where wintering colonies were recorded during previous years. Also, we checked some caves for the first time on the existence of bat wintering colonies. In total, six caves were checked for winter colonies located in different municipalities of Georgia (Map 1).
All caves are located in the karstic outcrops of Western Georgia. Bats were recorded in four caves excepting of caves Kidobana and Vardgora. On the other hand, we were not able to check the whole Cave Vardigora, since it is a big cave with siphonic lakes and areas, where climbing equipment is needed. Cave Melouri – is part of the Imereti Caves Protected Area and it has the status of a Natural Monument. In the winter of 2015, wintering colony of Mediterranean Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus euryale) consisting of more than 2000 individuals was recorded. In winter 2022, wintering colony of Mediterranean Horseshoe Bat was not recorded, however wintering colony of Greater Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) consisting of about 280 individuals was recorded.
Cave Sakishore – There is a wintering colony of Schreibers’ Bent-winged Bat (Miniopterus schreibersii) in this cave. In 2022, we counted about 250 individuals of these species. In March 2016, about 720 individuals of these species were recorded.
Cave Kidobana – no wintering colony was recorded.
Cave Vardigora – no wintering colony was recorded.
Cave Sachinkia – wintering colony of Greater Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) was recorded: we recorded about 110 individuals of this species.
Cave Samertskhle klde – in this cave, wintering colony of Greater Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) was recorded. Also, single individuals of the Blasius’s Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus blasii), Lesser Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros), Schreibers’ Bent-winged Bat (Miniopterus schreibersii) and Lesser mouse-eared bat (Myotis blythii) were recorded. It should be highlighted that the cave Samertskhle klde is the only cave known in Georgia where bats inhabit all year around. In this cave, we have wintering colony as well as a mixed maternity colony consisting of two species: Schreibers’ Bent-winged Bat (Miniopterus schreibersii) and Lesser mouse-eared bat (Myotis blythii). By our estimation, this mixed maternity colony could be the largest in Georgia, with a number of more than 8000 individuals.