Report Hambi Bats Action Group

Personal report by Christiane, written on November 19, 2018

All tree caves are open again!

5 weeks of intensive commitment to the opening of tree holes are behind us – now the goal is reached!

A GREAT THANK YOU to all who were involved with heart and hand: activists, friends, visitors, biologists. Everyone helped in giving back place to live to bats, birds and dormice and making Hambi more alive.

For me, Christiane, co-founder of the HambiBatsActionGroup, a good reason for a personal resume.

The beginning: Just opening tree holes?

Everything started at the beginning of October after the felling stop

  • with the question: What can we do for the Hambi? What is urgent?
  • and the thought: Without the Bechstein’s bat there is no legal objection to the deforesting.
  • The fact: in the entire northern half of the forest, the holes are closed with plastic foil in more than 500 trees. Places for bats and birds.
  • And our conclusion: We are going to open these holes for the animals as soon as possible. Thus the good reasons for the conservation of the forest persist.

No sooner said than done. Three people started to organise under typical Hambian conditions: unknowingly, with much enthusiasm, in the field of tension between chaos, structure finding, autonomous self-organisation, with constantly changing actors, the struggle for more information, more overview, continuous support.

Support was in fact overwhelming, coming from everywhere: activists, who were focused on building new tree houses, put their tools aside and climbed many cave trees. Those who could not climb threw the stone socks for the ropes, took notes, photos and helped with the documentation. Climbers from the area, from all over the country and even from abroad, arrived to participate in the hole opening. A computer specialist created a database for mapping. Biologists and hobby biologists offered advice and action.

For me, all these people were very impressive. Although they were so different, and sometimes individual and idiosyncratic, they were all characterised by great helpfulness, openness and dedication. I encountered so much authenticity, prudence, reflection, passion and heart. Many faces, conversations, deeds remain with great joy in my memory. The Hambi attracts idealists in droves, or attracts the best out of many.

So much for the almost unreal seeming idyll of remarkable people who realised with us during many weeks a common goal.

Difficulties: “RWE biologists” and rumours

Dark shadows cast on our action then the rumours of dead bats which had been found. We searched the sources, sought proofs, but found nothing concrete. Nevertheless, more and more tweets on dead bats appeared, but they did not come from us.

However, some of the films we removed when we opened holes had hacking marks that made us suspicious. Did the biologists make mistakes while closing? Would we perhaps still find death animals?

One person in our group had a photo of a dead bird, but wanted to hold back any kind of evidence for a possible lawsuit and warned against transparency and publications.

Eventually, the ITN biologists who closed the caves, came for a preliminary discussion that showed to be difficult. Because the biologists wanted to carry out their work quickly, efficiently, safely and undisturbed. But we feared coverup and we wanted to keep control over the opening of the holes. That collided with security regulations. Both sides took clear incompatible sides.

But also these questions remained open:

  • What was the probability of finding dead animals?
    Was it best for the forest to open the holes as quickly as possible?
  • Would we be able to do that alone – slowly over many months or expensive with paid climbing teams – with over 500 trees?
  • How could we control the opening by the biologists?
  • And was the use of the elevator really necessary? How big was benefit and damage?

Then came Monday, the 5th of November

Four ITN biologists with four climbing professionals and the director of the institute, plus Dirk Jansen and Thomas Krämerkämper from BUND on one side and a dozen activists on the other. Positions and demands were exchanged and both sides discussed.

The biologists made a conscientious and credible impression on all of us in their endeavour as experts to implement correctly and carefully the species protection requirements that RWE must follow in the best possible sense for forest and animals.

They responded to our demands to choose a more favourable proximity to control their activities, all plastic films and closures were handed over to us, all bags were openly visible, we were able to use their ropes after their tree climb to feed ours and scrambling and they gave us a list of detailed information on the affected trees.

We activists decided by consensus to first observe the biologists, and to maintain a healthy mistrust.

Because in this way we had no first and immediate control of what was visible IN the holes. We were only able to observe the climbers from below while opening the caves, relying on sharp eyes, binoculars, zoom lenses, the right perspective and our intuition. That is what we did this week. Many forest people came and accompanied the biologists, looked more closely, asked a lot of questions and also received mostly detailed answers.

Remained the elevator discussion

Elevator compacts forest floor – What to do?

  1. Alternative: climbing whenever possible
  2. Abandonment: leaving insignificant holes closed
  3. Minimize damage by elevator:
    • choosing the smallest possible, lightest elevator
    • which takes the shortest ways
    • if possible, on already compacted soil (forest roads)
    • suitable weather: dry autumn soil takes less damage

Our critique of elevator use has been taken seriously by the biologists. They once again considered advantages and disadvantages and alternatives. They used the elevator even less and more cautiously.
I am not an expert and I can not say that biologists did everything right nor that they made mistakes. But to this day, I have no known death records of bats known. The only dead bird was, as I suspect, a poor unlucky one.

All’s well that ends well?

In the coming winter bats like the evening sailor and birds like the nuthatch and the woodpecker, sometimes also martens and squirrels will be pleased at the reopened caves. And the other bats, with her the Bechstein bat, have the greater variety of protected habitats from the warmer spring days.
That’s why I think it’s good that almost all of the more than 900 previously closed caves are now open again.

With this goal in mind, our HambiBat action began and this goal was achieved with the help of a number of very dedicated people. For me unforgettable wonderful.
It remains to be hoped that the homeland of the Hambi inhabitants will remain out of danger.
And that the forest and the animals get a seasons to recover from the hardships of recent years.

In the coming winter bats like the common noctule and birds like the nuthatch and the woodpecker, sometimes also martens and squirrels will be pleased about the reopened holes. And the other bats, among them the Bechstein’s bat, have a greater variety of a protected habitat from the warmer spring days.
That’s why I think it’s good that almost all of the more than 900 previously closed holes are now open again.

With this goal in mind, our HambiBat action began and this goal was achieved with the help of a number of very dedicated people. For me unforgettable wonderful.
It remains to be hoped that the homeland of these Hambi inhabitants will remain out of danger.
And that the forest and the animals get a seasons to recover from the hardships of recent years.

Hambi! Hambi! Hambi! – Bleibt! Bleibt! Bleibt! 🙂

Facts on the ITN biologists

These biologists discovered in 2004 the western and in 2006 the eastern colony of the Bechstein bats in the Hambach Forest.
Since then they have been studying the colonies annually.
The investigation reports are submitted annually to a working group of authorities, as well as representatives of RWE and regional nature conservation associations.
These value-neutral scientific reports were the decisive basis for the BUND lawsuit against the clear-cutting.

Since 2011, there is the legal requirement for species protection, to close the tree holes before clear-cutting. RWE is obliged to do so and must bear all costs.
Since the biologists of ITN since 2004 scientifically accompany the bat colonies of the Hambacher forest, they have taken over the work of closing and opening.

After the deforesting stop in early October they wanted to open the holes immediately, but they waited a while because of the still uncertain situation.
According to the mapping by the ITN biologists, around 800 caves were closed. At the beginning of November 2018 they reopened 700 of them. 100 caves had previously been opened by other humans (HambiBatsActionGroup with activists, helping visitors) and some by woodpeckers.

In December 2018, the study program for the occurrence of bats for 2019 will be determined with the authorities working group.
Im Dezember 2018 wird das Untersuchungsprogramm zum Vorkommen der Fledermäuse für 2019 mit dem Behörden-Arbeitskreis festgelegt.

(Source: Talks with the ITN-biologists)

See also:
Bat rescue action
und
Endangered species in the Hambi forest, with more info on the Bechstein’s bat.

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One Comment

  1. Many questions remain unanswered. The most important one: What is the damage done by closing the holes? Because Bechstein bats hibernate not only in underground rooms and caves, but also in tree holes.
    The ITN (Institut für Tierökologie und Naturbildung, Institute of Animal Ecology and Nature Education) is an official contractor of RWE in the gradual resettlement of bats from the Hambach Forest to old forests in the surrounding area. This project is considered impractical and greenwashing by independent biologists. Not enough old trees, too far away, already surpopulated. The term RWE biologists is therefore not wrong. The members of this institute seem to believe that the deforesting will happen. So they help to move the bats, and thus they give the way free for deforesting. Because the Higher Administrative Court in Münster stopped the deforesting to give the Friends of the Earth time to prove that the presence of the Bechsteins’s bats make this forest valuable enough for being preserved. They used to be serious scientists, but now I fear they lost their independence.

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