The Ukrainian Bat Rehabilitation Center is a public initiative that brings together volunteers, professional biologists, and veterinarians across Ukraine with the aim of systematically assisting, treating, and rehabilitating bats that were found in critical conditions (injured, exhausted, found outside their roosting sites, or during ecological disasters).
The Public Initiative ‘Ukrainian Bat Rehabilitation Center’ was established as a Separate Unit of the Non-governmental Organization ‘Ukrainian Independent Institute of Ecology‘ in accordance with the decision of the General Assembly of the ‘UNIE’. In its activities, the Ukrainian Bat Rehabilitation Center adheres to the current legislation of Ukraine, including but not limited to: the Law of Ukraine ‘On Environmental Protection’, the Law of Ukraine ‘On Wildlife’, the Law of Ukraine ‘On the Red Data Book of Ukraine’, the Law of Ukraine ‘On the Protection of Animals from Cruel Treatment’, and other regulatory legal acts in the field of protection and conservation of wildlife, as well as the Charter of the ‘UNIE’.
The Ukrainian Bat Rehabilitation Center unites a widespread network of volunteers and organizations throughout Ukraine, coordinating efforts for the rescue and protection of bats nationwide. The UBRC remains a partner project of Feldman Ecopark and the International Charitable Foundation “Oleksandr Feldman Foundation”. On the territory of the Feldman Ecopark, there is a unique aviary for the summer maintenance of bats, and the winter facilities of the UBRC are also provided for use by the Oleksandr Feldman Foundation.
In addition, our partners include: Rivne Zoo, Odessa Zoo, State Natural History Museum of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (Lviv), Animal Protection Group “Staya” (Zaporizhia), Home of Rescued Animals (Lviv), NGO Rehabilitation Center “Zeleniy Hay” (Dnipropetrovsk Region).
History of the Centre for Bat Rehabilitation in Kharkiv, Ukraine
From the beginning of 1999 in the building of V.N.Karazin Kharkiv National University and in Kharkov in whole the students and graduates of Department of biology (later called “Kharkiv Bat Group”, under the supervision of PhD A.S. Vlaschenko) saved the bats having fallen into a window trap or found by people. The animals found in winter (up to 100) were hydrated and were kept in domestic conditions (on the balcony and in the home refrigerator) until spring when they were released into the wild, those that survived. Unfortunately, the percentage of surviving animals ranged from 65% to 40%.
Annually, the number of reports on bat findings throughout the year in Kharkiv increased. During the years 2005-2007, on average, 150-200 individuals were reported each year, in 2008 – 419. In 2011, their number exceeded 1,000, and in the following years, it approached 1,000-2,000. That’s why it becomes more difficult to keep such number of animals at home.
Rescuing and keeping a hundred or more animals in winter is possible in domestic conditions, having a refrigerator and a few kilograms of food. However, if their number exceeds 500, a completely different resource (human and financial) is needed to rescue these animals. In 2012, we acquired a separate phone number to receive reports about bats. Our contacts were posted on various websites of environmental organizations and other institutions (such as the Kharkiv Zoo). Additionally, we created this website.
In 2013, we got the support of the International Charitable Foundation of Oleksandr Feldman and received the necessary funds for bat food, refrigerators, and premises for the organization of the Rehabilitation Center for Bats at Feldman Ecopark. This allowed us to significantly increase the number of rescued animals and, moreover, treat the injuried ones. During the winter of 2013-2014, we saved and released in the spring over 600 individuals of 5 bat species. It was a breakthrough! In 2018, we saved a record number of bats – over 2,500. Most of the animals were transferred to us from Kharkiv, but almost 200 individuals came from other regions of Ukraine. With each passing year, the number of rescued animals and the scope of the Center’s work continued to grow. Currently, the Center receives about 3,000 animals per year. In 2020, the Center rebranded to the “Ukrainian Bat Rehabilitation Center”
Center’s Operation Scheme
Reports of found bats reach us through our website, social networks and helpline. Animal rescue services in Kharkiv, emergency services, and others also redirect bat encounters to us. Every day, we have a designated staff member/volunteer who goes on bat rescue events and brings them to the Center’s office. Bats are also transported to us (by car and train) from other cities across Ukraine. Sometimes people independently bring found bats to the Center. Messages and calls about bats come to our hotline from many countries worldwide, and we either provide advice or redirect them to colleagues in those countries.
Inside the Center’s premises, animals undergo examination and biometric processing: identification of species, gender, age, ringing, weighing, and measurement of forearm length. Subsequently, they are provided with water and food (if needed). Each living individual is marked with aluminum rings designed for bats. Feeding and artificial hibernation are done only in the winter when releasing the animal into the wild is no longer possible. Found animals are categorized based on their condition: some are released immediately (from April to October); those needing assistance are kept until conditions are favorable for release (from November to April). Injured bats are examined by a veterinarian and are either kept for treatment or lifelong rehabilitation at the Center. Bats found dead are also examined: their species is identified, forearm length is measured, they are weighed, a label with the date and location of finding is created, and they are placed in the refrigerator.
All received data is recorded in the current journal of bat accounting and measurement, as well as in a standardized Google spreadsheet. During the winter rehabilitation work, we daily record the bat’s weight in the journal before feeding and indicate the day of placement to hibernation.
Why bats struggle
Bats are the least studied group of mammals of Ukraine. All 28 bat species in our country are included in endangered-species list. These animals don’t build any roosts by themselves but use those ones that are given by nature or people. Kharkiv and other big Ukrainian cities with its multi-storied buildings attracts bats whose number increases from year to year. The crevices in the wall of high buildings remind bats of rocky cliffs where they hibernate natively.
The bats by themselves cannot prevent the dangers of city. During autumn migration a lot of bats fly into open windows to find roosts. In Kharkiv National University building hundreds of bats fall into the space between frames and die without taking them out in time. During winter thaws part of animals awakes and changes the roost so they are often founded in inner accommodation also. At high temperature and lack of water the animals lose their fat pool and die. The people also become a cause of bat death being in the trammels of superstition beliefs and fears. Bats are not mice!
Some results of the Bat Rehabilitation Center
In 2023, our team has already accumulated 11 years of experience of bat rescue and rehabilitation in Kharkiv. During this time, we have achieved significant and even unique results, not only on a national scale but also beyond Ukraine. The number of bats that have passed through the center has broken all records, with over 25,500 individuals as of December 2022. These bats were found and rescued in more than 200 settlements across Ukraine, with 80% of them in Kharkiv. Currently, the center has the capacity to accommodate up to 3,000 individuals during the winter.
In the summer, thanks to a unique aviary (a 62-meter circular tunnel called the bat-collider) built in 2019 in the Feldman Ecopark Regional Landscape Park, we have the ability to teach bat pups to fly and train adult bats after injuries. The UBRC (Ukrainoan Bat Rehabilitation Center) has a wealth of experience, including over 200 successful cases of treating bats with injuries and diseases. Approximately 50 bats are undergoing lifelong rehabilitation, and there have been 46 cases of bats born in captivity from females unable to live in their natural environment.
In addition to practical work with animals, UBRC employees put a lot of effort into educational campaigns dedicated to bats. Every year, they organize at least five public events, such as the Bat Release Festival, Bat Night, Bat Week, open scientific lectures, and seminars. They distribute 20,000 units of printed materials, conduct 30 popular science lectures for various segments of the population, and provide 25 broadcasts about bats.
In 2019, the project achieved a fundamental result – a change in the attitude toward bats throughout Ukraine. These animals are no longer perceived as “parasites” or “spreaders of disease.” The ideas that bats are rare, unique creatures facing the threat of extinction, and that their habitats should be preserved have firmly established themselves in people’s minds. Inspired by this project and consulting with our team, similar centers have been established in other countries (in 2017 in Minsk, Belarus, and Moscow, Russia).
As of 2023, the Center employs nine permanent staff members, with students and volunteers involved (their number varies from year to year, usually around ten permanent individuals each year). Since 2015, we have collaborated with the Center for Clinical Veterinary Medicine in Kharkiv, where injured bats are treated. This collaboration has successfully revived bats with fractures (bone fusion, amputation). Since 2017, veterinarian Anastasia Domanska has been working with the center, bringing unique experience in successful operations on bats with fractures, eye surgeries, oral cavity treatment, hernia correction, and assisting in bat births. About 50 bats of five species are on lifelong rehabilitation due to injuries preventing their release into the wild.
For ten consecutive years (except for the war year 2022), the educational event “Bat Release Fest” (releasing bats into the wild) has been held each spring at Feldman Ecopark in Kharkiv. In 2019, 500 bats were returned and ceremoniously released in Zaporizhzhia. In 2021, four such events were held in Kharkiv, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, and Ivano-Frankivsk, releasing a total of 3,000 bats into the wild. More details can be found in some news reports, such as link1 and link2.
During these years we managed to obtain friendly attitude towards bats due to active outreach activities.
Everyone can help these animals and receive information in our Center!