The Italian Almanac

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Rescuing Roman bats

Roman bats are to get their own rescue centre, under a new agreement between the Environment Ministry and the capital`s city authorities. The document, unveiled during an international conference in Rome on migratory species, provides for a specialized medical and rehabilitation centre for injured bats. Speaking at the conference, Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo said the centre would play a crucial role in helping understand more about the nocturnal mammals. ``This complex will also be open to interested experts to use for study and training,`` she explained.

``Rome`s many protected buildings and the thousand caverns in the city`s ruins mean we play host to a potentially enormous population``. Rome`s Environment Councillor Fabio De Lillo said the bat centre was another step forward in the capital`s efforts to promote biodiversity. ``Rome is the largest, greenest city in Europe and a great tool for urban planning, given its ecological network,`` he said, pointing to the capital`s many parks, two rivers and 20 protected nature reserves.

There are 32 bat species in Italy, 90% of which now live in some kind of human-built structure. Bats, the only mammal able to fly, have been a protected animal in Italy since 1939. The law banning bat hunting was introduced in recognition of their crucial role in containing insect populations. Bats are also protected by a number of European Union agreements as well as a Europe-wide accord known as Eurobats.

Despite their bloodsucking reputation, most bats are insectivores, meaning they have to migrate or hibernate during winter.