Bats: fall guys bearing hope

By Misch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

Bats have the reputation of being blockade animals - if they are mentioned, it is usually because they are blamed for standstill. Yet the presence of the small mammals means one thing above all: that nature is doing well.

"Biotopes like this one, is exactly what we have to preserve, protect and rebuild." Jacques Pir's hand wanders over a typical section of the Moselle valley. In front of the bat expert, dozens of small fields stretch out, separated by hedges, with individual fruit trees and surrounded by forest edges. An ideal hunting ground for the highly endangered Greater Horseshoe Bat, of which a colony of about 150 females lives here – more than in the whole of Germany. They are the only ones of their kind far beyond the borders.

"With that comes responsibility", says Pir as we sit down on a wall at the edge of the forest. The scientific staff member of the Museum of natural history (MNHN) and representative of the Ministry of the Environment for species conservation has dedicated himself to the preservation of the only flying group of mammals. Not always easy, because in their press appearances, chiroptera (hand-winged mammals) are usually scapegoats for standstills and bans. "The bat is to blame: PAG for Kennedy South cancelled" or "New tram route endangers endangered bats" recently headlined the Lëtzebuerger Wort. In a Carte Blanche for RTL, former Education Minister Anne Brasseur (DP) contrasts "common sense" with "more regimentation and egoism", for which the "habitat of birds, snakes or bats" must serve as an example. She echoed Michel Wolter (CSV) who said that it was unacceptable that "every single biotope prevents us from building where it meets land-use planning criteria, but there is a bat flying around". In Steinfort, bats became a political issue in 2017 when a citizens' action group filed a lawsuit against the construction of a refugee accommodation because no impact studies for the region were available. How much this action actually had to do with bats remains open. But the animals made it into the headlines anyway – and thus once again became a symbol for the false dichotomy between progress and nature conservation.

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