Wed, Mar 14, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Bureau aims to help bats on highways

CONSERVATION EFFORT:Many bat colonies call box girders under freeways home, but maintenance and construction projects can disrupt the bats’ lives

By Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff writer

The Freeway Bureau is to launch a bat conservation program in an effort to protect the bats that live under the elevated portions of the nation’s freeways, the Chinese-language United Daily News reported on Monday.

Bats have become frequent victims of highway roadkill, along with other wildlife, along highways that cut through wildlife habitats, the paper said.

The bureau last year asked experts to conduct research on the bats that live near and around the freeways, Kao Hsiu-yun (高秀雲), a section manager at the bureau’s construction division, told the newspaper.

It discovered that the bats’ habitat was being damaged or destroyed due to human interference and development, especially cave bats that had no place to live and were beginning to move into culverts and box girders, she said.

After the 921 Earthquake in 1999, the bureau began an annual program to reinforce freeway bridges to withstand earthquakes, but the work on the bridges has threatened the bats’ existence, the paper said.

To avoid bothering the bats, the bureau is to launch a conservation program later this year, and avoid scheduling construction work during times when bats are active, trying to survive the winter or breeding in the summer, Kao said.

It also plans to consult with experts to confirm that the bats are not nesting at a site scheduled for construction or maintenance work before starting work, Kao said.

If the bats remain after a long time, the bureau will consult with experts on whether to drive the bats away in a non-harmful manner — by closing off the entrances and exits to the box girders when the bats leave on their nightly food searches or by using lights and sounds to drive them away — the report said.

“In the past, we believed that freeways would destroy and split up the habitat, but in recent years, studies have surprisingly shown that bats will live in box girders and even use them to breed, raise their offspring and survive the winter,” Bat Association of Taiwan secretary-general Chou Cheng-han (周政翰) was quoted as saying in the report.

A comprehensive study conducted last year discovered that within a 20km to 30km elevated section of the Taipei-Yilan Freeway (Highway No. 5) alone, there were 4,000 to 6,000 bats from five species, he said.

Formosan woolly horseshoe bats, which tend to live alone and are rarely found in large groups even in caves, were even sharing one box girder, he said.

However, if driven away from a nesting area in box girders, bats tend not to return to those girders, so such a move should be a last resort, Chou said.

Freeway construction projects have gradually paid more attention to environment and ecology in recent years and construction workers have treated wildlife more kindly, and these changes are worth recognizing, he said.

Since 2010, animal passageways have been set up along Minsyong (民雄), Baihe (白河), Dajia (大甲), Guansi (關西) and Tongsiao (通霄) sections of the Formosa Freeway (Highway No. 3).

Taiwan is home to several species, including the Formosan lesser horseshoe and greater horseshoe bats, the Formosan leaf-nosed bat, the Formosan flying fox and the yellow-nosed bat.

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