Explore Creatures of the Night

02 October 2014

Nocturnal animals in the South Australian Biodiversity Gallery.

Live animals, science theatre and night time tours of the South Australian Museum are all on offer this week as visitors are invited on an adventure into the world of the night creatures.

The Museum is flooded with families for its School Holiday Programme (29 September – 3 October), designed to connect audiences with the science of the night world: what is there, how it survives and how can we protect it. The Night Creatures programme is an opportunity to teach people about the mammals, reptiles and insects that are around them while they sleep.

The South Australian Museum’s Head of Public Programmes Katrina Nitschke says, “The Night Creatures programme is a way for the Museum to inspire children with curiosity about what happens in the natural world after the sun goes down. A lot of animals wake up at twilight, when many children are going to bed. At the Museum this school holidays, we bring that part of the natural world to life through tours, storytelling and through torchlight tours.”

A team of science programmers, educators and researchers are behind this series of activities at the Museum for children to learn about animals and insects. They want visitors to understand what is around them and to appreciate – not fear – the creatures of the night!

South Australian Museum Technical Officer Terry Reardon is a bat expert. With the arrival of spring, Mr Reardon is receiving many calls about bats living in the roofs of homes around South Australia, particularly in the Adelaide Hills.

“The native habitat for these bats is in large old trees with hollows. As vegetation has been cleared and the bats have to compete with other wildlife such as birds, possums and bees for the trees, these bats turn to houses for shelter.”

Eight species of small bats are common to the Adelaide plains and hills. They are usually quiet in winter but people may hear squeaking noises in their homes as the weather warms up.

“Now the insects are starting to come out, the bats are hungry, especially the pregnant mums who have to eat enough to feed the pups when they are born in early summer,” said Mr Reardon.

“On a really warm night, you might catch a glimpse of them as they forage for insects in the early evening. The best place to see them is looking towards the sun’s glow in the west just after sunset. Sometimes bats can be seen chasing insects that have been attracted to street lamps.”

The Museum encourages people to help coax bats out of their homes by building wooden ‘bat boxes’ for temporary roosting. Mount them on a tree where bats can find them easily, and watch as they leave for hunting.

Mr Reardon says it’s even possible to install inexpensive cameras inside the boxes, so that wildlife enthusiasts can later see exciting footage of the bats nesting. He says flying foxes are also a great nocturnal animal to connect with in our backyards.

“Adelaide now has a camp of about 3000 grey-headed flying foxes.  They are large bats with a wingspan of a metre. They too can be seen in the early evening sky. They can also visit gum trees and fruit trees in people’s backyards. The fly-out from their camp (near the foot bridge at the entrance to the Adelaide Zoo) is very spectacular.”

Visitors can enjoy learning about bats and other nocturnal creatures in the remainder of the Museum’s exciting School Holiday Programme this week.