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24.10.2008

Taps to stay off until bats wake up

Authorities delay the pumping of water into a dam reservoir for six months because bats in a cave that is expected to fill with water are in winter hibernation

COŞKUN YAMAN


A newly built dam in the Aegean province of Balıkesir will have to wait another six months to before it can start damming water because a cave that will be flooded contains 20,000 bats in hibernating for the winter.

Authorities at the Havran Dam decided the bats, which will wake up in April, could be moved to an artificial cave that would not be in danger of flooding.

The decision for the delay, taken by the local State Waterworks, or DSİ, bureau, was communicated to the Provincial Coordination Council, headed by the governor, Selahattin Hatipoğlu.

The local DSİ chief, Şahin Durukan, told the council that the bat colony in the cave was the second largest in the country.

"We have prepared a new artificial cave for the bats and will transport them there," he said.

The new cave was the same size as the present one used by the bats and they had placed the special droppings, known as "guana" and key to the bats' survival, in the new cave, he said.

"The transportation of the bats is a very sensitive procedure. They are in winter hibernation right now. They will drown if we open the floodgates. That's why we had to start operating the dam in April, rather than this month," he said.

Durukan said when the bats woke wake up in April they would be directed to their new cave. "We will close the entrance to the old cave. Because of the guana, bats will prefer the new cave and will fly there," he said.

Durukan also noted that the dam was vital to irrigation in the region and when operational, it would provide water to 3,330-hectares of farmland.

"However, the thousands of bats in the cave were also very important to us. We will be providing the farmers of Balıkesir with water in six months," he said.

Bats traditionally hibernate from October to late April as their food source, insects, disappears. Once a suitable hibernation site is found they crawl into a crevice, while some species hang upside down.

In hibernation a bat may breathe once an hour, have a temperature as low as 2 degrees Celsius, and a pulse of 10 per minute. Reducing its temperature means it uses less energy.