Bat research
in the Chernobyl exclusion zone


P. auritus ( . )The studies were begun in 2003, first of all because of almost complete absence of the information from this region. In spite of relatively high part of mature woods, remarkable biotopic diversity and negligible level of anthropogenic transformation, the local chiropterofauna was very rare an object of scientific research. There were just single reports, obtained in mid of 20th century. In the same time the grand ecological changes which took place after the people evacuation and the stopping of traditional kinds of activity, caused complete wilding of vast areas (more 2500 km2) and restoration natural complexes lost once. In ones turn it supposed favorable development of bats fauna as well.

The second reason of the bat research was necessity of comprehensive assessment of quality of natural complexes in the Chernobyl zone, in order to ground and to develop measures on their conservation and protection. Chiroptera, in this connexion, are very heavy arguments, since one hand, they have very high protection status in Europe, and, other hand, just by the fact of their existence can denote on wealth of related conditions at the habitats.

At the last, where if not in Chernobyl zone with its high levels of radioactive contamination the radiation ecology of bats could be studied, the most unknown side of their life.

So far (autumn 2008) all studies were carried out like an initiative project of International Radioecology Laboratory of Chernobyl Center (Slavutych, Ukraine. PI Gashchak Sergiy P.) at cooperation with representatives of Kharkov National University (Kharkov, Ukraine. PI Vlaschenko Anton S.), and without aimed finance support from any side.


Main research objectives

Species composition, relative diversity

Distribution of bats on lands

Sex and age composition

Pattern of the region use by different species

Total content of 90Sr and 137Cs in the animal body, and dependence of this indices from different factors

Bats of the Chernobyl zone in winter


Research methods

Trapping with chiropterological mist-nets at the hunting sites and near roosts

Trapping with the plastic trap (Vlashenko, 2004) in tree holes

Morphometric measurements

Marking with individual chiropterological rings

Survey and census using ultrasonic heterodyne detector Pettersson D200

Live estimation of radionuclide content in whole body of bats using equipment and methods earlier applied in radioecological studies of small-size birds (Gaschak et al., 2008) and murines (Makluk et al., 2007).


Main results

On the state on the end of 2008: more 30 locations of the Chernobyl zone were inspected, almost 790 bats were caught. They belong to 10 species: Myotis dasycneme, Myotis daubentonii, Plecotus auritus, Nyctalus leisleri, Nyctalus noctula, Pipistrellus pygmaeus, Pipistrellus nathusii, Pipistrellus kuhlii, Vespertilio murinus and Eptesicus serotinus. Three from them (Myotis dasycneme, Nyctalus leisleri, Pipistrellus kuhlii) belong to a category III (rare) according to Red Book of Ukraine. At that the later two species are rather common. Existence of 45 species more is also possible. Thus, most of regionally possible species are already revealed. Such diversity and relatively high efficiency of trapping are evidence that local ecological conditions (biotopic diversity, abundance of plots with old hollow trees, absence of trees cutting and other kinds of trouble, presence of abandoned buildings) promote favorable development of this animal group. At least 8 species (Nyctalus leisleri, Nyctalus noctula, Plecotus auritus, Pipistrellus pygmaeus, Pipistrellus nathusii, Pipistrellus kuhlii, Vespertilio murinus, Eptesicus serotinus) mate and breed on this area. Additional estimation of radioactive contamination and dose burdens allows to conclude that most of Chernobyl bats are in considerably more favorable radiation conditions than terrestrial small mammals. Thus, the Chernobyl zone is worth to consider as a valuable natural reservation, playing great role for conservation and restoration of biological diversity (including endangered species), and hence it demands unconditional protection and further investigations.

Preliminary results were reported at the 15th school-seminar of teriological society of NAS of Ukraine (Kanev national reserve, October 2008).


Prepared by S. Gaschak


To look pictures about researchers and bats of the Zone > here.

Reports on chiropterological expeditions in the Zone may be viewed at the web-site, devoted to the Chernobyl zone: i. g. about 2008 here, a set of bat photos made in the Zone may be looked through here.