At the request of Arks, I am starting this thread. The same information has been placed in the Letaba thread.
Beeld and Kruger Park Times newspapers will probably carry a story about the bat situation in Letaba soon, so I thought I will inform you of the situation.
Visitors alerted KNP officials to the fact that there were dead bats near one of the "bat houses" in Letaba Rest Camp on Saturday July 14, 2007.
The section ranger for Letaba Ranger Section, Mr Joe Nkuna and his staff had also noticed dead bats, particularly around the bat house in the Ranger Post and alerted State Vet Dr Dewald Keet (from the Department of Agriculture's Veterinary Services).
Staff from the camp, in particular from People and Conservation (Ms Kirsty Redman's staff), was alerted and started collecting bat carcasses on the request of Dr Keet.
On Monday and Tuesday (July 16 - 17), 140 carcasses were picked up near the bat house at Letaba Ranger Post, 134 carcasses were picked up near the bat houses in Letaba Camp and 500-odd were found in the Linen Room of the camp.
On Wednesday (July 18 ) a further 200 carcasses were picked up all around Letaba.
On Thursday (July 19) a further 100 carcasses were picked up.
Dr Dewald Keet (State Vet, Department of Agriculture's Veterinary Services) contacted Professor Bob Swanepoel at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in Pretoria as he couldn't find any specific reason why the bats died. Dr Keet has ruled out rabies.
Prof Swanepoel and his team came to Kruger (Letaba) to investigate and arrived on Thursday July 19.
Letaba People and Conservation staff continued to find carcasses, but these were all small amounts. It is believed that they were old carcasses that have been hanging in the houses since the phenomenon started. They also investigated the bat houses and, to our surprise, it was found that more bats had moved in to these houses. These bats are still alive.
Over 1 000 bat carcasses were found in the Letaba area during that week. No new carcasses have been found since then.
In effect, we still don't know what caused the deaths but hopefully Prof Swanepoel and his team will find answers soon. As he has explained to me, there are a number of tests that will need to be carried out and answers don't necessarily come quickly. Some might only come after years of research, but this is another one of those mysteries at the moment. I have asked him to keep me in the loop so I will let everyone know as soon as there are any developments.
- Bat Houses (or hotels) have been erected at a number of rest camps in the Kruger National Park as an environmentally-friendly way of decreasing visitor discomfort when these animals roost in tourist accommodation facilities as, it is hoped, they choose these "bat friendly" facilities rather than the tourist units. There are nine bat houses in Letaba, eight in the camp itself and one at the Ranger's Post;
- The bats found were all Angolan free-tailed bats (Mops condylurus);
- Prof Bob Swanepoel is a well known virologist from the Special Pathogens Unit of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in Pretoria.
Kruger National Park
110 Years of Conservation Success - Now isn't that worthy of a Celebration!