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    Bats find shelter in IDF 'ghost bunkers'
    TAU researchers say several endangered bat species have been found in underground military facility left after Israel-Jordan peace treaty was signed

    An endangered species of bats has been finding shelter in abandoned IDF bunkers along the Jordan River, Ynet has learned.


    The bunkers are in an area that was abandoned by Israel after the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan was signed, but is still used as a buffer zone between the two countries' borders.


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    According to researchers from Tel Aviv University, who were granted access to the ghost bunkers, they have been able to identify 12 indigenous species of bats in the 60-mile tract between the Sea of Galilee and the West Bank.


    Two of the species, commonly known as the Mediterranean horseshoe bat and Geoffroy's bat, are on the critical list and three others are categorized as endangered.


    "There is no doubt that by being in a closed military zone, which has prevented human interference, the bat habitat will allow these delicate creatures to thrive," said one of the researchers, Eran Levin.

    Delicate creatures (Photo: Shutterstock)


    Still, Levin said it was too early to quantify the growth of the local bat population, estimated to be in the thousands, because the research project was not yet complete.


    The researches have turned one of the bunkers to a space that is more accommodating for the webbed-wing mammals, suspending mesh sheets and wooden palates and spraying insulating foam and stuck stones on its metal surfaces, to help their grip.


    Different bat species each preferred different grip surfaces, Levin said.


    The team has positioned a night-vision camera in the bunker, to follow the bats' movements during the period they inhabit the space – from March to October when daytime temperatures in the area soar above 40 degrees Celsius.


    Enjoying their own peace dividend, the bat population could also give something back to Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians in the area.


    Aviam Atar of Israel's Nature and Parks Authority said that the bats help to reduce crop damage by eating insects at night, coming out to feed in the dark when the fields are empty.


    "Because each bat can eat a few grams of insects each night, they reduce the need for the use of pesticides and this certainly has potential for facilitating green farming. The crop growers don't even know this is happening," he said.


    Reuters and AP contributed to this report



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    Finding Refuge
    Photo: GPO
    Original use of space (illustration)
    Photo: GPO