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November 2, 2016
An interview with Philippe Théou, a bat expert working in Albania

Supported by the EU funded project NaturAL, the rangers and monitoring specialists from the Regional Administration of Protected Areas are learning about bats' monitoring. Their goal is to get to understand better the bat populations in their protected areas and to assure a better management of the habitats of these protected species.

We had a pleasure to meet Philippe and learn about his work.


  • Can you tell us some interesting facts about bats?

Bats are a species of key importance for the ecosystems and for the human economy. A study shows that a small bat colony of around 100 specimens can eat one ton of insects per year! This regulation of insect populations is without any negative impacts on the human health, soil or water, unlike the chemical insecticides.

Bats are also very sensitive. Most of the species have only one juvenile per year, and any disturbance during maternity colony or hibernation could cause the death of big part of the colony. For example, the juveniles that still don’t fly might fall down after the group movement due to disturbances (human presence, predator, light, sound). Also, being awaken during hibernation, bats could leave their roost using the last reserve of energy they were keeping to reach the sunny days and the return of their food, the insects.


  • Tell us more about bats in Albania, which species have you identified?

So far, 32 bat species have been recorded in Albania - a very high number considering that a maximum of 54 species have been recorded in all Europe (including Island and Western Russia). Croatia and Bulgaria have the highest diversity so far with the 35 bat species recorded, but the coming research might help to find new species in Albania and change the situation!

Most of the European bat species are found in Albania and some maternity colonies have more than 7000 specimens, while hibernation groups can be composed of more than 2000 individuals. This makes Albania highly important for the bat conservation regionally, especially considering the important migrations realised by some species, with specimens recorded in Albania and then possibly in Bulgaria, Central Europe or even Russia.

Also, species from the Rhinolophus genius are frequently found in Albania while being extinct or rare in Central Europe since the 60s due to the extensive use of pesticide and the destruction of natural habitats. Finally, Albania is also home to the bat species endemic for the Western Balkans, Plecotus kolombatovici.  


  • What is the importance of field research of bat populations?

We have visited the ten protected areas that are in the focus of the project NaturAL. Some of these areas were already visited in the past while for others we collected the first data related to bats. Our monitoring missions are held throughout the year, but we are especially interested in two very specific periods: winter since it represents the hibernation period, and late spring/summer for the maternity colony. The rest of the year we mostly collect the information related to the repartition of the species, and their migration.

It is important to inform the people of all the positive impacts these mammals have on our lives. Simply by not trying to catch them or disturb them with lights and sound, we can jointly assure their protection, as it is guaranteed to them by the Albanian law and the European Union. 


More information about bats in Albania:

The Batman, a multimedia article

Bats in Albania leaflet (in Albanian)

Photo gallery Learning about bats of Albania

Lakuriqët e Natës - Bats in Albania FB

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