Joe goes to bat for critters of the night

Microbats nesting.
Microbats nesting.

By day, Mr Tonga is a building maintenance and pest controller.

But his personal passion for the past decade has been to save the microbat species by building special bat boxes.

Mr Tonga uses his carpentry skills to build the boxes, which the bats in their hundreds use for safe shelter, nesting and breeding.

He does this because the scarcity of suitable nesting hollows have seen bats and other wildlife slowly losing their habitat in Perth.

‘It’s my contribution to the environment,’ Mr Tonga told Gazette.

‘They are a species that is becoming rarer and normally require hollows, which are being removed by development.

‘We put 30 boxes in Bibra Lake and are starting to see an increase there,’ Mr Tonga said.

He offers bat tours and night stalks all over the state, recently holding one in Belmont, where night herons, frogs, and nocturnal spiders were also spotted.

In 2012, Mr Tonga installed five bat boxes at Adachi and Hardey parks using a $1000 donation from the Rotary Club of Welshpool to encourage the breeding of the white-striped freetail bat known to be in the Rivervale foreshore area.

Microbats eat insects. They consume about 1000 mosquitoes a night and some are a tiny 4cm, weighing just 5g.

Each box is wedge-shaped and made of thick ply with a metal roof designed to last at least 13 years.

Inside, the bat pads are furnished with galvanised mesh. A reflective strip, visible even during the day, allows the bats to be monitored as their silhouette will show against the strip.