Caves and Little Bent-Wing Bats

This is another flashback post, back to April of 2007. We used to live at a place called ‘The Caves’, about 20km or so North of Rockhampton. We were renting a shed on a 53 acre block on the other side of Limestone Ridge, one of the more cave saturated(?) areas in Queensland. The area is home to Capricorn Caverns, a popular private tourist cave complex first established in the 1800s, as well as the old Cammoo Caves tourist site that was passed on to national Parks to become a part of the Limestone Ridge/Mt Etna National Park.  Being the adventurous types that we were, my partner, and usually a few of the kidlets, would go exploring the ridge and associated caves. Many of the caves are named or tagged. Some even have information signs inside the caverns. While others remain hidden and unexplored. The area has a long history of industry such as guano mining and eventually limestone mining for the cement industry. A long battle was fought to protect these caves from mining, as they support 80% of Australias breeding population of Little bent-wing bats (Miniopterus australis). Protests to protect the caves were often fraught with danger, as the mining company laid explosives in some of the more critical breeding caves, and protesters hid in others. I’ll leave some links to more on the history of Mt Etna and the protests at the end of this post.

Of all the caves on Limestone Ridge, one cave is a standout in terms of the destruction we humans can cause, and the resilience of the Little bent-wing bat. Aptly named ‘Flogged Horse’, this cave has been mined for guano, blasted, concreted, modified and otherwise vandalised since the late 1800s. Now protected by National Parks, the cave has once again returned to its original purpose; to harbour the bats.
The Little Bent-Wing Bat weighs about 7 grams when fully grown.

I would like to note that we did not deliberately disturb these bats. My first contact with the colony was through a crawl space. Unfortunately, at the end of the crawl space was a perfect roosting site for a few thousand Little Bent-wing bats. The bats decided that they didn’t like my invasion of their space and made it known. The result was the main cavern of Flogged Horse becoming a house full. I am hoping someone who has studied these bats more than I can tell me what the little Orange parasites are that were on these Miniopterus

The entrance to Flogged Horse was via a steep set of stone steps and a slowly rotting wooden staircase. Another entrance was constructed, but failed early due to instability.
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A by-gone attempt to make a new entrance to Flogged Horse

A by-gone attempt to make a new entrance to Flogged Horse

The cave has been used for years as a tourist venture, but was abandoned when handed to National Parks. Due to the difficulties in effectively closing the entrance, the cave has been visited by many tourists and spelunkers since its closure. Some pointless vandalism has occurred, with people taking stalactites and straws as souveniers. Yet artifacts such as hundred year old candles, wedged into weathered crevices in the rock remain untouched. In some of these photos you can also see power cables draping from the roof of the cave.

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Bats. Thousands of them
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Cave06 KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIf anyone knows what the parasites are, please comment.

Capricorn Caves
Mt Etna Caves National Park
Conserving Mt Etna (ABC)

 

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