People across Europe have celebrated a real natural superhero as they marked International Bat Night last weekend.

Forty-five species of bats live in Europe and while many species have an official ‘day’, in 1997 the UN declared the evening of the last full weekend of August as ‘International Bat Night’.

Environmental groups used the occasion to raise awareness about bats, the challenges they face and what we – and our governments – can do to help them. And for some real bat fans, that meant a dark night out with the world’s only flying mammal.

NABU’s own ‘bat man’ Thomas Steinbüchel and his colleagues were featured on German television’s coverage of Batnight:

22 of the 24 bat types in Germany enjoy legal protection, while similar rules exist in other countries and many types of bats are listed in the EU’s Habitats Directive.

Steinbüchel’s colleague Wolfgang Rackow told NDR television:

“The presence of bats is a sign of a healthy ecosystem”

However, bat habitats are threatened by construction, harmful farming practices and other human activity across Europe.

Some bat species have already disappeared from certain areas, or even entire countries. Yet there is good news too.

Just this month the BBC reported that the Nathusius’ pipistrelle had been spotted for the first time on the Isle of Man – an island between the UK and Ireland.

The Woodland Trust also shared some bat facts including the impressive fact that with 18 recorded species bats represent a quarter of all surviving mammals in the UK.

In 2016, the UN agency EUROBATS and the European Commission published a joint action plan for the conservation of bat species in the EU. It shows that many species are threatened and three sorts are even endangered: the Azorean, the Madeira pipistrelle and the Tenerife long-eared bat all face a “very high risk” of becoming extinct in the wild.

Meanwhile, outside the EU researchers from the Frankfurt Zoological Society have been studying Europe’s largest bat – the greater noctule – in Belarus. In 2015, the species was spotted there for the first time since the 1930s.