Wildlife of Chréa National Park
The Chréa National Park is one of Algeria’s smaller conservation areas, but it is nonetheless home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Its ancient Atlas cedar forests are home to a population of Barbary Macaques, which are listed as endangered by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), and the park is home to eight species of bats which, while often overlooked because of their nocturnal habits, play an important role in the ecology of the region as they keep insect populations in check.
Bats in Chréa National Park include the common pipistrelle, greater horseshoe bat and lesser horseshoe bat. As its name suggests, the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) has a wide range of distribution and is considered to be of ‘least concern’ from a conservation viewpoint. They have an average wingspan of between 180 and 240 mm, measure between 35 and 45 mm in length and weigh between 3 and 8 grams. Their flight pattern is fast and erratic, with each individual bat eating up to 3,000 insects (mosquitoes, lacewings and small moths) every night.
The greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) gets it common name from the horseshoe shape of its nose-leaf which forms part of its echolocation system. Contrary to popular belief, bats have good eyesight, but nonetheless use echolocation to navigate and detect their insect prey. Their ears are leaf-shaped and pointed, and soft brown fur covers their bodies. Greater horseshoe bats are thought to have the longest lifespan of any bat species, with some living up to 30 years. They have a wingspan of between 350 and 400 mm, body length of between 57 and 71 mm and weigh up to 30 grams. Their preferred food is large moths, large beetles and caddis flies.
The lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposidero) is a much smaller version of the greater horseshoe bat. Although very similar in appearance, the lesser horseshoe bat weighs between 5 and 9 grams, with a wingspan of between 192 and 254 mm and body length of 35-45 mm. They are very fast and agile in flight, snapping up flies, moths and spiders in flight and from branches and stones on the ground.
Bats roost in trees, caves and under overhanging rocks in the wild, coming out at dusk to feed. Be sure to look out for these nocturnal flying mammals when visiting Chréa National Park, knowing as you do that if it were not for them, those pesky insects would be out in far greater numbers.