Bats are a key part of cave ecosystems.
Bat numbers have dropped dramatically in a Bulgarian cave after a Hollywood movie starring Sylvester Stallone was allowed to film there during the animals' hibernating season, bat experts claim, calling the damage done "unquestionable."
According to Boyan Petrov of the Museum of Natural History, a count last winter of "visible colonies" in the cave numbered 33,800 bats. After filming of "The Expendables 2" there in November, only 8,500 bats were counted, Agence France-Presse reported.
'Unquestionable' Damage To Bats
The Bulgarian environment ministry authorized the shoot and said it had caused no problems for the bats, but scientists and environmentalists begged to differ, according to AFP:
Expert Antonia Hubancheva, who visited the cave after the shooting, said the damage was "unquestionable."
She said the animals were subjected to stress, loud noise from heavy machinery and construction works, bright projector lights, and crowds of people which kept them awake during a period when they should have been hibernating.
Cave ecosystems are particularly fragile and vulnerable to disruption because the animals living in them "have evolved to survive in a very stable, unchanging environment," according to the government-run Riverina Environmental Education Center in Australia. As one of the few cave-dwelling creatures that come and go from the cool, dark climes, bats bring essential nutrients into cave ecosystems.