Soldiers left Israel’s underground forts along the frontier with Jordan after a 1994 peace treaty between the two countries. With much of the former front line, some of it dotted by mine fields, still designated by the military as off-limits to civilians, bats have swooped into the secluded and dark steel caverns.
Several years ago, researchers from Tel Aviv University were granted access to the ghost bunkers. Now, they say, they have identified 12 indigenous bat species in the 100-kilometer- (60 mile)-long tract between the Sea of Galilee in Israel and the Dead Sea’s northern edge in 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 designated as endangered.
“There is no doubt that by being in a closed military zone that has prevented human interference, the bat habitat will allow these delicate creatures to thrive,” said one of the researchers, Eran Levin.
But he 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.
One former bunker — overlooking the spot along the Jordan River where some Christian faithful believe Jesus was baptized by John — has been turned into a more accommodating home for the webbed-wing mammals.
To give the bats more grip, the research team roughed up its smooth steel and concrete walls, suspended mesh sheets and wooden palates, sprayed insulating foam and stuck stones to surfaces.
Different bat species each prefer different grip surfaces, Levin said.
A thick layer of bat guano now covers the floor and metal bunk-bed frames the military left behind.
A night-vision camera follows the bats’ movements during the period they inhabit the bunkers from March to October when daytime temperatures in the area soar above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
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 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.
Just imagine – IDF equipment helping to save species of bats which in turn save crops of both Israelis and Arabs. I can hear heads exploding with cognitive dissonance in Israel-haterland.
Meanwhile the bats could teach the art of accurate flying to the unmanned drone that crash-landed today very near to a busy main road in southern Israel. Thankfully there were no injuries.
An Eitan-type Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, Israel’s largest drone, crashed near Moshav Yesodot on Sunday. No injuries were reported.
An initial investigation suggests that the aircraft exceeded its flight restrictions. The damage is currently estimated at nearly $ 5 million.
The investigation showed the incident was apparently the result of both a human error and a technical malfunction. The drone apparently crashed after one of its wings fell off, according to the initial investigation.
The detached wing was installed with a highly-advanced device that was being tested during the drone’s flight.
Brigadier-General (res.) Yehonatan Karni, one of the drone’s two developers, said it may have “suddenly slowed down, and an aircraft can’t hover in one place. The moment it slows down or is in an upright position – it falls from the sky.”
However, he said only a thorough investigation could determine the cause of the crash.