Range and abundance
Ghost Bats were once distributed across most of inland and northern Australia as far south as the Flinders Ranges, South Australia. They have declined in southern and central Australia, and are now restricted to tropical northern Australia.
The Ghost Bat is the largest echolocating bat in Australia and one of the largest in the world, measuring 98 - 118 mm and weighing 74 - 144 g. It has large eyes, a long simple shaped nose leaf and very large ears, joined together above the head. It has pale grey or light brown fur with a lighter belly, with more inland populations tending to be almost white. It has no tail but retains a full tail membrane.
While the Ghost Bat occurs in a broad range of habitats, its occurrence in a particular locality is mainly determined by the presence of suitable roosts. Ghost Bats roost individually or in colonies in caves, rock crevices and old mines. Roost sites used permanently are generally deep natural caves or disused mines with a relatively stable temperature of 23°-28°C and moderate to high humidity. Females return to maternal roosts (only 14 such roosts are currently known) and raise one young per year. The humid environment provided by roosts allows Ghost Bats to inhabit arid and semi-arid landscapes.
Ghost bats are carnivorous and eat birds, bats, small mammals, frogs, geckoes and large invertebrates, capturing prey by active hunting with echolocation, perch hunting using eyesight and passive listening for noise made by prey.
There has been a dramatic reduction in the range of the Ghost Bat in the last 100 years. The Ghost Bat is vulnerable to disturbance to roost sites, particularly maternity roosts, by mining. Ghost Bats are highly sensitive to disturbance, and repeated approach by humans can cause abandonment of roosting sites. Ghost Bats are vulnerable to being impaled on barbed wire fences, as they forage just above the vegetation and often fly without echolocating. More generally, the factors that lead to the decline of small mammals (feral cats, wildfire, grazing by feral herbivores) are likely to reduce the prey base of the Ghost Bat.
What is AWC doing?
AWC protects a maternity roost of the Ghost Bat at Pungalina – Seven Emu sanctuary, and limits disturbance to that roost site. AWC implements fire management on all northern wildlife sanctuaries and controls numbers of feral herbivores.