HOHENFELS, Germany -- There are well over 3,000 different species of flora and fauna on the Hohenfels Training Area, but for many people the most exciting creature here is the Greater Horseshoe Bat.Named for its uniquely shaped nose "leaf" -- which bats use to detect objects via reflected sound -- the Greater Horseshoe Bat is protected through a coordinated effort by the U.S. military and German government.While many people may have heard about this beautiful little bundle of fur, only a few may know that the species is extremely endangered in Europe. Therefore, the Greater Horseshoe Bat is the subject of widespread conservation activities by the Government of Bavaria, the Federal Forest Service and the USAG Bavaria Environmental Division. Under the guidance of renowned bat expert and project manager Rudolf Leitl, these three organizations partner to improve areas for the bats to breed, roost and hibernate, as well as find forage.For example, in 1992, a nursery roost was found inside an old building located in the nearby small town of Hohenburg. The building was repaired, with the nursery roost being further optimized in recent years, resulting in a growing bat population. Plus another nursery roost was made available on HTA, in the former village of Lutzmannstein.Furthermore, recent renovations were made in cellars of several buildings in the former villages spread throughout HTA. These cellars are important as they provide uniformly cool places for bats to hibernate and to sleep during extremely hot summer days, and especially in autumn and spring.Since 2012, there is an ongoing EU LIFE+ Project funded by the European Union, the Bavarian Nature Fund and the Hirschwald Nature Park. The U.S. Army and German Federal Forest (Bundesforst) also support this project, which covers 1,164 hectare acres on HTA. There, the habitat has remained relatively unaltered and provides excellent conditions for the bat.This is the first time an active military training area has been included as part of a LIFE+ Project in Germany. As part of the project, fruit trees have been planted as a joint effort to increase the amount of insects, which are the bats' main food source.Also, grazing programs in cooperation with farmers from around Hohenburg were implemented. A breed of red cattle keep the meadows free from bushes and trees, ensuring a plethora of insects can thrive. Moreover, several dung beetle species, a favorite food source of horseshoe bats, are supported as they survive on the cattle's manure.Greater Horseshoe Bat facts:*The colony of Greater Horseshoe Bats at Hohenburg is the only one in Germany.*Horseshoe bats can reach an age of over 30 years.
*They have their first baby (called a pup') when they are 5-6 years old. They give birth to only one pup annually and can skip a year. They take good care of their offspring and show them what is needed to survive.*Bats hibernate in caves. During hibernation, a bat's body temperature lowers and their metabolic rate slows, meaning they use less energy and can survive on the fat they have stored up for the winter.*Some bat roosting caves are located on HTA. These caves are extremely important to the livelihood of the bats; they provide a safe, quiet place to rest and the temperature remains constant.*About 90 percent of the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels Training Areas have been identified as a Natura 2000 nature sanctuary under the European Birds and the Fauna-Flora-Habitats Directives. A "military reservation" provision in nature-protection law applies for military training areas so that the nomination may not impair current and future military use.