Rotorua's Sanatorium Reserve is best known as an active geothermal landscape. But now it's about to be known for something very different, as it recently became only the third confirmed urban bat location in New Zealand.

"The long-tail bats are only found in New Zealand and it's really cool it's been found here. They're usually found in native forest and not often in towns and cities," bat expert Sarah Beadel said.

The tiny long-tailed bats weigh only 8g to 11g, but can fly up to 60km/h. They are nocturnal, so they sleep all day and are active at night, over a 100km area.

"It's really surprising that bats are using this area because it's right near the CBD," Dr Kerry Borkin said.


"There are cars, houses, buildings, lots of lights [nearby] but this is a nice, dark spot the bats are in and there's lots of tall trees nearby, and there's forests not far from town. All those things are a good news story for bats really.

"There's been a few people outside of New Zealand that have been quite excited about us finding bats in another town or city. People in the UK and Australia are a little bit more used to it happening, so they're thinking it's quite positive news for bats in New Zealand. As well as people in the bat community in New Zealand, they're all quite excited about finding bats here in Rotorua."

The long-tailed bats were discovered after detectors recorded them at night and the current theory is that eucalyptus trees are attracting them.

"Those are similar to trees that we've found in other places that bats use to roost in," Borkin said.

"There's cavities, peeling bark ... those sorts of things that bats can crawl into or under and use to rest during the day."

Wildlands, which manages the area for the council, has a number of initiatives to ensure the bats continue to thrive in Rotorua.

"To ensure the future of the bat population in Sanatorium Reserve we're going to really get stuck into the predator control work this summer," Wildlands ecologist Beadel said.

"We're going to do some work to identify the extent of the population in the reserve, where they're actually hanging out, which trees they're using and how we're going to manage those trees in the future."


The long-tailed bat's future looks bright. They've already gained quite a following and have the support of Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick.

"Two weeks ago we discovered these bats, we're so excited about that. We've never seen them down there. We knew there was a diverse range of biodiversity but this is an exciting discovery and I'm being phoned by people around New Zealand going 'wow'."

"Having bats basically within spitting distance of the Pak'nSave car park is pretty exciting," Beadel said.

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