HOME: Hairy roosting bats hang by their claws in a cavity between tiles and joists in the attic of the Kaubisch family home at Grosskmehlen, outside Berlin, Germany. The family permits the bats to raise their young in the roof area and has left an access hole for the flying mammals to enter and leave.
By Anna Ringle-Braendli
There are times when Anne Kaubisch finds her very own house creepy. Whenever she opens the trapdoor leading to the attic, she never knows what will happen next.
A 38-year-old pharmacist, Kaubisch and her two children live under the same roof as about 100 bats.
Every spring the scary-looking little mammals return to her house in the municipality of Grosskmehlen, an hour’s drive south of Berlin, to raise their young. She gets a lot of encouragement from conservationists and recently even got an award.
But this summer, she got the creeps again. When she opened the trapdoor to remove bat droppings from the attic, a bat flew right at her.
“I jumped off the ladder very fast, ran downstairs, flung open all the windows, sat down on the patio and waited — for a really long time — for it to find its way out of our house,” she recalled.
The Kaubisch family moved to the rural area seven years ago not knowing that every year around April scores of uninvited guests would move in with them.
“At first we thought someone was walking around up there in the evening, or that it was a raccoon,” she said. Evenings, when Grosskmehlen grows quiet, the bats become active.
“They squeak, scratch and flap,” Kaubisch said. They head out into the twilight to hunt.
Some bat species, such as the serotine, the kind that resides with the Kaubisch family, roost in buildings during spring and summer to raise their young. There they live in roof spaces, crevices or cavity walls.
The environmental agency of Brandenburg, the state where the house is located, has expressed regret that many householders’ roof renovations deprive bats of a habitat.
“The renovated roofs are then hermetically sealed off from the animals,” said Jens Teubner, a biologist at the agency.
Christiane Schroeder, a species conservation expert for Berlin-based charity NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union) who has been counting bat populations for 20 years, sees some progress, however.
Architectural firms and housing companies are increasingly taking bats into account before undertaking renovations.
Kaubisch, too, has a heart for the furry fliers. Her bats might never return if she had the old grey tiles taken off the gabled roof and replaced by new ones, she said, so she decided against it.
“The repairs would only have been cosmetic anyway,” she noted.
For this she recently received a plaque from the state environment agency and state environment ministry. It reads, in German: “We give bats a home.” Created in 2009, the award has gone to 11 recipients so far.
According to the environment agency, some of the 18 bat species in Brandenburg are slowly multiplying. One indication of this is NABU’s International Bat Museum at Julianenhof in Brandenburg’s Maerkische Schweiz Nature Park, which reported 808 bats in the attic in June
compared with 238 in 2006.
The non-profit group BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany) has also registered growing numbers of bats in various quarters.
Kaubisch’s attic is a popular bat hangout. Eighty-eight lived there three years ago, and now NABU counts about 100, Kaubisch said. Their noisy presence for many weeks every year has its benefits, though.
“The bat droppings are great fertiliser for my garden,” she said. -DPA