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The LIFE+ Chiro Med program unites technical and territorial expertise with an objective to overcome the five major threats to the Greater Horseshoe Bat and Geoffroy’s Bat at all stages of their life cycle.
To fight against these threats, the program plans for the implementation of 29 actions divided into four main groups:
- Preparatory actions, elaboration of management plans and/or action plans (Actions A),
- Concrete conservation actions (Actions C),
- Actions to raise public awareness and the dissemination of results (Action D),
- Follow-up actions from the actions and the operation of the project (Actions E).
These actions are grouped according to three strategic axes:
1/ Improvement in knowledge of the species
Bats, nocturnal and inconspicuous, are globally misunderstood. The European LIFE + Chiro Med program proposes to improve knowledge of the food resources of two target species and their use of the land in order to implement conservation measures most appropriate to each species. This target has resulted in the implementation of actions A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, E3, E4 and E6, as described below.
2/ The development and protection of breeding grounds
To halt the decline of the Greater Horseshoe Bat and Geoffroy’s Bat the following actions aim to act against the loss and alteration of dens and natural habitats, the reduction of food resources and to decrease mortality from road crashes .
Concerning the dens, the program plans the:
- Implementation of agreements with owners (private or public) for a permanent cohabitation (Action A1),
- Physical protection of existing dens (Action C1),
- Creation of a network of dens favourable for the occupation of bats (Action C2).
Corncerning hunting grounds, the program envisages the creation of a network of 20 kilometers of hedgerows to encourage the dispersal of bats to new sites and improve access to hunting grounds (Action C4).
Concerning food resources, the program plans for:
- Analysis of dung insects (insects that feed on faeces, such as flies, dung beetles, cockroaches, etc.) (Action A8.1)
- Consultation with farmers about pest control (Action A8.2)
- Establishment of favourable pastoral practices (Action C5).
Concerning road deaths, actions A6, C3 and E5 described below apply.
3/ The dissemination of knowledge, information and public awareness
Bats are often subject to erroneous beliefs that affect their reputation and sometimes attract direct persecution. However, they are valuable allies who participate in the regulation of insect populations (mosquitoes, spiders, etc.) which can disturb man and his activities (agriculture, tourism, etc.). This line can be disseminated by the creation of various communication tools, which aim to promote coexistence of Man/Bats. Actions D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, D6, D7, E7 and E8 are included in this third axis.
ACTIONS A - PREPARATORY ACTIONS, ELABORATION ON MANAGEMENT AND / OR ACTION PLANS
ACTION A.1: Registration of Dens
This is to establish management agreements between project beneficiaries and owners of sites frequented by a colony of bats or sites which are to be subject to an intervention (s).
The signing of management agreements is necessary:
- For homeowners: to allow visits and works designed to maintain a protective shelter beyond the project, to keep the project informed about any proposed works or activities that may have an impact on the colony,
- For beneficiaries of the project: to provide advice and monitoring, limit disturbance due to the presence of animals, to maintain a relationship of exchange and communication between the owner and the framework of environmental protection.
From a target of 22 registered sites in the Camargue, the Alpilles and the Gardon gorges, 15 sites currently benefit from a convention and seven are in the course of being registered.
ACTION A.2: Preparatory works prior to the construction of dens for bats
ACTION A.3: Understanding how the network of dens are used by bats
ACTION A.4: Prospecting for new dens
ACTION A.5: Improved knowledge of the natural environment used in summer
ACTION A.6: Preparatory works for the realization of road crossings
ACTION A.7: Develop a landscape model
ACTION A.8: Improved knowledge of food resources
ACTIONS C - CONCRETE CONSERVATION ACTIONS
Action C.1: Development of dens occupied by bats
This action involves the development of dens occupied by bats to ensure their peace and/or sustain their presence. Seven dens are affected by this action. Some of these protections (including those relating to hibernation grounds) will also benefit other species of bats frequenting the areas. In the longer term, the expected outcome is to increase the use of all or part of these dens, especially those hosting individuals for hibernation.
To date, four dens have been developed. Other changes will take place in 2013.
ACTION C.2: Development of buildings to make them suitable for breeding
The creation of new dens will establish a network of homes essential to the dynamic functioning of populations. The goal is to recreate the environmental conditions optimal for the reproduction of bats as defined in terms of action A2.
Sustainability of the work envisaged in the 16 sites is guaranteed because a large proportion of them (12 of 16) are the property of the project beneficiaries (Coastal Conservation Group).
Currently, five dens have been developed from the 16 identified. Other dens are in the middle of development.
ACTION C.3: Creation of a system of road crossings
ACTION C.4: Creating a network of hedgerows
Bats use hedges when travelling around, to protect against wind, light and predators, or for finding food. These vertical structures on the landscape are an essential element for the proper maintenance of colonies of bats.
This action aims to aid the recovery of natural habitats used by bats. Hedges planted will be between breeding and hunting grounds or between dens (Action C2) and potential hunting grounds to help facilitate travel and protect the animals.
Hedges are composed of various deciduous shrub species adapted to the local terrain. Shrubs (1 meter in height at planting) are planted to avoid open areas greater than 10 meters, which is a barrier to the movement of the Greater Horseshoe Bats.
More than 5km of hedges were planted previously on land in private ownership and over 1km on the grounds of the General Council of Bouches-du-Rhône. Other plantations by private owners (including the group Listel), on the grounds of Coastal Conservation Group, and on land classified as "sensitive natural areas" belonging to the General Council of the Gard will be launched in 2013, the last year of the program LIFE + Chiro Med.
This action will be complemented and refined based on the results provided by action A5, improving our knowledge of hunting grounds and transit grounds.
ACTION C.5: Implementation of pastoral practices favourable to bats
Implementation of alternative pastoral treatments which are friendly to entomofauna coprophagy is a necessity. It is a priority that can be achieved only by consultation with farmers, ultimate responsibility for the management of their herd. This is why the evaluation of this action takes into account other ecological parameters, such as the effectiveness of proposed new worming treatments, cost and acceptability to the guardian of the animals. The involvement of farmers is also an asset in the future evaluation of the results of this action demonstrating to the profession the appropriateness of new practices in the agricultural world. Finally, the implementation of pastoral practices promoting the development of food resources for the bats (dung insects) by changing practices regarding prophylactic worming of livestock, provide a solution for the managers of protected areas and operators of Natura 2000 sites for the establishment of a rational and environmentally friendly grazing management .
ACTIONS D - ACTIONS CONCERNING PUBLIC AWARENESS AND DISSEMINATION OF RESULTS
ACTION D.1: Making a communication plan
This action includes:
- Communication to the press (press kits, press releases, press conferences, etc.),
- Communication to the general public through conferences and school events. To date, 14 public lectures have been held and eight school activities have taken place in the Gardon gorges. This year, the Chateau Espeyran (Saint-Gilles-du-Gard) hosted the 16th European night of the bat, organized by the Joint Union of Camargue Gardoise,
- Communication to the public with specialized national meetings including the National Bats of the South Encounter, held on 5th and 6th November 2011, at Sanilhac-Sagriès in the Gardon gorges. An end of program seminar (end of 2013) will be organized to present the results of different actions in the LIFE+ Chiro Med program.
ACTION D.2: Completion of three exhibitions
A travelling exhibition consisting of eight freestanding panels, was completed in June 2011 and is intended to be installed throughout the project area and beyond in high-traffic public places to better inform the public. An exhibition called "temporary" was also created and installed at the reception area of the administrative centre of the Camargue Regional Natural Park.
A third and final exhibition is scheduled for the end of 2013. It is a "bats viewing area" designed to plunge visitors into the mysterious world of these flying mammals through images, movies, murals, paintings, sculptures ... This viewing area should be established at the Château d'Avignon (venue to be confirmed).
ACTION D.3: Implementation of a multimedia montage
This action helped to create a slideshow, integrating and combining sequences, text, video, sound and pictures, which can be used for conferences and events. Flexible and adaptable, it presents the entire program, its history, its genesis, its territories, its actions and bats, especially the Greater Horseshoe Bat and Geoffroy’s Bat. This arrangement is thus used in its entirety in conferences for the general public, or projected in a shortened form for school classes or training, meetings or used to introduce a topic.
Click here to find the entire multimedia montage
ACTION D.4: Making a documentary
Lasting about 45 minutes and to be completed for the end of 2013, the film will present the biology and ecology of the Greater Horseshoe Bat and Geoffroy’s Bat. It will highlight their features compared to other species in the Camargue, as well as their relationship with man.
ACTION D.5: Creation of a specialized technical kit
ACTION D.6: Creating information and awareness tools
This action is designed to create simple, easily accessible and distributable communication tools, to inform and educate the public about the project, from a local level (booklet of program, booklet of bats, exhibitions, newsletters) to European and international level (website , report presenting the program).
ACTION D.7: Nature Trail: Manufacture of equipment and educational tools about the bats of the Vigueirat marshes.
ACTIONS E - ACTIONS MONITORING THE OPERATION OF THE PROJECT
ACTION E.2: Argument for the proposed extension of a Natura 2000 site
This action will develop a reasoned case for the extension of the Natura 2000 site "Petit Rhône" taking into account the areas favourable to bats (and possibly other species in Annex II of the Habitats Directive). Geographically the Camargue is almost entirely covered by SIC (Sites of Common Interest) with the exception of some areas which do have an interest concerning the conservation of populations of Greater Horseshoe Bats and Geoffroy’s Bats.
This extension is designed to optimize the site perimeter by integrating the "major" bed (the ségonaux) between the river banks and dikes. These natural areas shelter habitats of common interest of high stake, and the habitats of species of common interest in which bats dens are located.
ACTION E.3: Monitoring bat populations
This action consists of following the populations of bats in all known breeding colony dens. This monitoring is necessary to ensure the smooth running of their life cycle and to find out more about demographics. It is also a means of assessing the impact of other actions and is therefore an indicator of their success. For the two major known breeding colonies in the Camargue, the totals before giving birth are;
Increases observed are not compatible with a natural increase of the bat population, which should be of the order of 5% at best. This demonstrates indirectly the instability of the breeding populations in the Camargue and the important role of refuge to these major colonies. This finding validates the overall objective of the LIFE + Chiro Med program to provide these two species with protected perennial sites for their reproduction.
One of the caves of the Gardon gorges, known to harbour a colony of hibernating Greater Horseshoe Bats, became a breeding site for this species during the program. Since the summer monitoring of 2010, 15 juveniles have been observed each year for a group of 50 individuals. It is the only known breeding colony at present in the Gardon gorges.
ACTION E.4: Monitoring and evaluation of new dens developed for bats
This action is targeted at 16 dens where development is intended in order to promote the inhabitation of bats. Assessment will be made on whether the conditions of temperature and humidity obtained correspond to those sought by bats. This will also allow the assessment of the effectiveness of the infrastructure and its sustainability.
ACTION E.5: Evaluation of road crossings
This action aims to measure the use by bats of devices for road crossing developed through action C3. From simple devices (black areas around the colonies) to more complicated ones (adjustable gateways). A study of the behaviour of individuals faced with these devices, per night-time observations using a thermal camera, will be realized.
This action is necessary to evaluate the efficiency of road crossing (action C3) and study the behaviour of individuals in relation to the devices.
ACTION E.6: Monitoring and maintenance of facilities and equipment
This action, designed to regularly monitor the condition of dens, buildings, facilities and equipment necessary to ensure the good condition of these facilities and, otherwise, to address any problems identified.
ACTION E.7: Participation in conferences and training
This action concerns the personnel involved in the project, who will be required to participate in during the four years of the program, various seminars and training sessions to learn and acquire new skills and knowledge relevant to the fulfilment of certain actions. It also promotes the sharing and exchange on a common theme: the conservation of bats.
ACTION E.8: Creation of a conservation plan after Life
This plan will indicate how to proceed after the end of the project, conservation actions initiated under the program. It will detail actions with information on the project schedule, project owners and sources of finance.