Local critter wins Australian Mammal of the Year! – Plus your chance to meet them at upcoming Bat Nights

The southern bent-wing bat, a critically endangered species of south-eastern Australia, was recently crowned the inaugural winner of the title Australian Mammal of the Year. After a very exciting week or so of public voting in which one species was knocked out each day, the bat was pitched against the dingo in the final round – and managed to secure the win with about 60% of the vote!

Southern Bent-winged Bat Photo: Steve Bourne and Terry Reardon

The southern bent-wing bat is an insectivorous cave-dwelling bat occurring only in the Limestone Coast of South Australia and south-west Victoria. Since the 1960s there has been a rapid population decline and the species was listed as critically endangered in 2000. A national Recovery Team was established in 2019 to prevent the southern bent-wing bat’s extinction, and the species was recently added to the priority species of the updated Threatened Species Action Plan 2022-2032.

The Limestone Coast Landscape Board is hosting a multi-day event coinciding with MegaFest, the Naracoorte World Heritage Trail Run.

On the evening of Thursday 10th November, NGT’s Rose Thompson will be giving a talk about the South East’s bat fauna – did you know 15 species of bat call the Limestone Coast home?

A presentation on Friday 18th November, by University of Adelaide master’s student Nicola Bail, will focus on the new Mammal of the Year including Nicola’s current research into the breeding success of southern bent-wings.

Come along to either of these events (or both!) to learn about some of our most fascinating local wildlife. As part of these events we will also hear from Naracoorte Caves staff in the bat observation centre where, thanks to cameras installed in Bat Cave, we can see and hear incredible live footage of the bats as they get ready to head out for the night. We will then head down to the mouth of Bat Cave and witness the impressive flyout at sunset of ~20,000 bats! It is truly an amazing experience.

Bookings are essential – via the Limestone Coast Landscape Board’s Conversations webpage – click here (you can also go in the draw to win some batty prizes!).

While many thousands of bats gather at Bat Cave at the Naracoorte Caves in the warmer months, throughout the year southern bent-wings make use of a large number of other caves throughout the South East. NGT has an upcoming project that will complete an audit of important bat roost caves across the region, with the aim of improving future management – and thereby protecting and enhancing bat habitat – of these sites. Stay tuned for further updates on this later in the year.

Tightly packed southern bent-wing bats roosting. Photo: Steve Bourne.

This project is supported by the Limestone Coast Landscape Board’s Grassroots Grants program, funded by regional landscape levy.

Rose Thompson