SPNI was disappointed to learn that the Ministry of Defense had recently demolished two abandoned military posts in the Jordan Rift Valley, likely burying hundreds of bats alive.
Bats represent about a third of the Israeli population of mammals. There are over thirty different species of bats living throughout Israel and they are a vital part of the ecosystem.
Along the Jordan Rift Valley, many bats have found safe havens in military posts created after the Oslo Accords, and since abandoned. These cave-like bunkers resemble their natural habitats.
In 2006, when it was discovered that bats were living in these posts, SPNI sent a team of researchers, led by Dr. Eran Levin, to survey the posts and the bats. The SPNI team found that the bats were crowded into the posts and had difficulty clinging to the smooth concrete or tin ceilings. SPNI, in cooperation with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, Tel Aviv University and with the assistance of the IDF Jordan Valley Brigade, retrofitted the ceilings with holds and rougher surfaces and hung cables, ropes and chains to make the bunkers more habitable for the bats. Over the years, the abandoned posts have become homes to at least 12 species of bats, with thousands of bats living in them.
Maintaining the posts has been part of a larger SPNI effort to restore the bat population in Israel. Bats serve as an organic pest control and are capable of eating several hundred insects an hour, feeding on mosquitos, cockroaches, moths and other agricultural pests. Therefore, bats reduce the need for hazardous pesticides that damage the environment and water supplies. The use of pesticides is also expensive for farmers and the proliferation of bats can save the agriculture industry millions of shekels.
SPNI hopes to prevent any further destruction of these abandoned military posts which could threaten the survival of many bat species in Israel. A live webcam runs in one of these abandoned posts and is the first live continuous footage within a bat roost. The posts may serve as a potential source for further academic research into bat habits and hibernation activities. The Ministry of Defense has agreed to postpone demolition of any other posts pending discussion and cooperation with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and SPNI.