Construction? Bat Cave? Yes, we felt that our 8 hectare botanical garden lacks a cave, and Loes somehow misses (supervising) construction.
Our terrain has no big exposed rocks or caves and therefore lacks the micro-climate and specific habitat that is associated with large rocks. We do already have an enormous amount of lizards, iguanas and bats, and more of those or other types can come if we have rocky outcrops and the hiding places associated with them. Especially large dark holes are attractive to a lot more animals. Even some armadillos, coatis and some of the smaller wild cats may look there for shelter.
Since we bought the terrain in October 2006, there was a severely eroded spot with bare soil. We modified it to become our tree nursery, but in 2010 we constructed a better nursery (with flat concrete ‘stoeps’ and a covered part) near the dam. So for the past years we have been thinking about what to do with this ‘old nursery spot’ where nothing wants to grow on the baked exposed soil.
So some day the plan was born to build a cave, for bats and which ever other animal that wishes to be living there or nearby. The planning took some time but now, finally, last month, in between guests and Coiba trips, we have started to build the cave. (Note, yes we are aware that it would have been a lot easier to rebuilt the soil and make it green, but than it would look like the rest of our land and now it will be different…).
The methodology is in theory based on memories of many visits (was it in 1988?) to Burgers Zoo, Bush and Desert in Arnhem, where they constructed rocks with mesh and concrete and painted real rock-like with lichens and all… I tried to google on it but have not been able to find details. And, in December 2010, we learned about the Cuba method for the construction of large nests for parrots and macaws, using hessian cloth and cement, mixed with wood-chips.
As you can see on the photos, we have started to built with concrete blocks. And we have added some steel. The walls are not straight on purpose. This Wednesday the 23rd, we reached the roof level. Loes, Justino and Manolo pushed over a remnant of cyclone mesh wire (rede Tiburon). It is bent into folds so that inside the cave the ceiling is not square nor flat. On top – hopefully next week – we are going to put the hessian cloth dripped in concrete…. If we let it drip we may get stalactites…
On top of that concrete/hessian we intend to put more hollow objects that shall make the total roof look more rocky and create several other resting and nesting places for a variety of animals. And on top of that will be another layer of hessian combined with plaster in a rocky colour and shape. Don’t ask how yet, we’ll figure something out and let you know. We do not need to paint lichens as I am sure they shall come as long as we keep the surface rough. We actually will make ridges to hold ferns and orchids and maybe even a strangling fig.
On the sides, we have already created outcrops that should become boulder or rock like. Hollow of course with entries for creatures… One of them will double serve as a bench for those who want to rest while walking our botanical garden. Another will be a step to reach a high small window with a kind of door to –hopefully- watch the bats without disturbing them.
Much later, we also need to put the rock-plaster on the inside, but since it will be dark, the outside is much more important. We have already got a collection of true rocks to add to the authenticity. This cave has so far taken about 240 blocks in various sizes. Although fairly large, it is not quite large enough to park a bat-mobile. Just as well that crime in Mariato is virtually non-existent.