German experts deem wind turbines lethal for bats

A wind turbine is pictured in the southern German town of Schonach, January 6, 2008. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - German animal campaigners are alarmed by the number of dead bats being found near wind turbines and have called for restrictions on generators in areas with high populations of the nocturnal mammal.

“The bats are not only being clobbered to death by the turbines, but can also suffer from collapsed lungs due to the drastic change in air pressure,” said Hermann Hoetker of the Michael Otto Institute for wildlife and the environment.

Hoetker, an ornithologist and expert on bats at the Institute, said turbines were killing more bats than birds but declined to give an exact number.

German wildlife group BUND estimates about 8,000 birds are killed by wind turbines in the country per year

“We’re not sure why this is. It could be to do with the echolocation mechanism of bats (which helps them navigate), which they stop using when they think they don’t need it.”

Scientists at Hanover Technical University are trying to devise a solution to the problem but in the meantime, Hoetker wants more restrictions imposed.

“It would be good if wind turbines were only built in areas where bats do not tend to fly. Ideally they would not be put near woodland,” he said.

Germany has about 19,000 wind turbines, generating about 5 percent of the country’s electricity -- more than any other country in the world.

Reporting by Josie Cox; Editing by Matthew Jones