|Savi's pipistrelle Hypsugo savii|
The Savi’s pipistrelle is the latest addition to the list of bats of the Maltese islands. In 2011 it was discovered roosting in the Vilhena Palace at Mdina.
This new species of bat was discovered by means of a bat detector. This is a device that is used by chiropterologists (people who study bats) and naturalists to detect the presence of bats and to identify them. Most bat detectors work by converting the ultrasound signals bats make to fly in the dark into audible frequencies. Different species make different sounds making it possible to identify them although closely related species sometimes can be hard to tell apart.
The Savi’s pipistrelle is found in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean. It is also found west of the Mediterranean in the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Islands and to the east and south east as far as northern India.
Savi’s pipistrelles roost during the day under bark, in cracks in old buildings and rock faces and come out at night to feed on flying insects. In winter they seek caves, underground vaults and other places where the temperature is more stable.
The Savi’s pipistrelle belongs to a family of bats known as the vesper or evening bats. The vesper family is the largest bat family. It consists of over 300 species found on every continent except Antarctica.
Twelve species of bats have been recorded in the Maltese islands. One species, the Schreiber’s bent-winged bat, was recorded only twice in the 1950s.
All bats are protected in the Maltese islands and it is illegal to kill or harm them. Bats are protected internationally through a number of conventions such as the Bonn Convention and in Europe through the EU Habitats and Species Directive.
This article was published in The Times of Malta 17 July 2013