Past study in an area of the Tamakoshi River Corridor had shown that there was lack of knowledge and awareness about bats and their importance among locals that often led to roost disturbance and culling of bats. The same study had found a very rare bat species, Hodgson’s bat Myotis formosus in the area after around two decades. In addition, Nepal is developing and several rivers including the Tamakoshi River are occupied by hydropower projects that have huge potential to negatively influence the surrounding natural environment and their wild inhabitants. Therefore, this project was carried out in four phases in June 2022, September 2022, December 2022-January 2023 and April-May 2023.
The main objective of assessing local peoples’ perception about bats and conduct mass conservation outreach campaign about bats among youth communities and school children. Morevover, bat species diversity and their echolocation calls along the Tamakoshi River Corridor were also documented, focusing our search for M. formosus. Altogether, 12 bat species have been identified using mist nets, harp trap and roost search, while few individuals remain unidentified, awaiting their genetic confirmation. One out of 12 species identified, is Vespertilio sp., a species new to Nepal. However, the species confirmation requires further genetic analysis. Echolocation calls of the captured bat species were recorded and we also located few important bat roosts in the area. The recorded calls will serve as reference for non-invasive identification and monitoring of bat species in the near future.
However, we could not locate our focus species M. formosus. As per the locals and our experience, such caves harboring bats were generally located far up in the mountains away from the Tamakoshi River corridor. Thus, it suggests that the next study should extend the search area looking for potential cave roosts for M. formosus and other bat species higher uphill.
Through the scheduled survey, more than 90% of the respondents were found to have seen bats in the area, but most of them knew nothing about bats and their importance. Some people even mentioned that bat sightings have become rare in the recent times due to unknown reasons and agreed that bat population has been decreasing. However, by the end of this project, more people knew about the importance of bats and were positive and willing towards bat conservation in the area. We formed altogether nine school bat clubs and three youth bat clubs who will continue to work on spreading the conservation message. Towards the end, a sharing workshop was conducted to share the findings of the project and gather feedback and suggestion from the concerned local stakeholders. The local government bodies and local people expressed their willingness to support and collaborate in support such projects in the coming days.