The elusive long-tailed bat (pekapeka tou roa) might be more prevalent across Franklin than first thought.

The tiny creatures have the highest endangered species threat ranking of ‘nationally critical’.

But, Franklin is a hot spot for the bats, particularly in Kohukohunui, the Hūnua Ranges.

Recent tracking research conducted by the EcoQuest Education Foundation using Regional Environment Natural Heritage grant funding found roosting sites in the area for the first time.

Auckland Council senior conservation advisor Ben Paris says over summer EcoQuest partnered with community group Te Ara Hikoi/Predator Free Franklin and mana whenua, working alongside local landowners to find new bat sites.

“EcoQuest provided bat monitoring training for landowners so they could place automatic bat monitoring listening devices to find out if bats were present.

“More than 60 sites, most of them never surveyed before, were investigated, with bats found at 60 per cent of them.

“It’s an exciting finding because that excellent community support and engagement has meant we have found pekapeka in areas that previously showed no activity, such as on the Āwhitu Peninsula.

“Not only that, but we recorded high activity levels in certain regions, including at Patumahoe, Paerata, and on the edges of the Hūnua Ranges Regional Park.”

Work is already underway to prepare a programme for next summer to include follow-up work with more intensive automatic listening devices, more surveys, monitoring at established sites, and trap and tracking to locate roosting areas.

Franklin Local Board Deputy Chair Angela Fulljames says it’s great news to hear the bat is more widespread than first thought.

“We have a long way to go to safeguard a future for this critically endangered species but all those landowners, mana whenua and volunteers involved have been critical to taking a vital step that allows us to understand more about this unique creature.”

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