(photo credit: REUTERS)
QASR AL-YAHUD - Abandoned Israeli army bunkers along the Jordan River are providing a lifeline for bats on the endangered species list, researchers say.
Soldiers left Israel's underground forts along the frontier with Jordan after a 1994 peace treaty between the two countries. With much of the former front line, some of it dotted by mine fields, still designated by the military as off-limits to civilians, bats swooped into the secluded and dark steel caverns.
Several years ago, researchers from Tel Aviv University were granted access to the ghost bunkers. Now, they say, they have identified 12 indigenous bat species in the 100-kilometer (60 mile) - long tract between the Sea of Galilee in Israel and the Dead Sea's northern edge in the occupied West Bank.
Two of the species commonly known as the Mediterranean horseshoe bat and Geoffroy's bat are on the critical list and three others are designated as endangered.
"There is no doubt that by being in a closed military zone that has prevented human interference, the bat habitat will allow these delicate creatures to thrive," said one of the researchers, Eran Levin.