In Germany, active bat rabies surveillance was conducted between 1993 and 2012. A total of 4546 oropharyngeal swab samples from 18 bat species were screened for the presence of EBLV-1-, EBLV-2- and BBLV-specific RNA. Overall, 0·15% of oropharyngeal swab samples tested EBLV-1 positive, with the majority originating from Eptesicus serotinus. Interestingly, out of seven RT–PCR-positive oropharyngeal swabs subjected to virus isolation, viable virus was isolated from a single serotine bat (E. serotinus). Additionally, about 1226 blood samples were tested serologically, and varying virus neutralizing antibody titres were found in at least eight different bat species. The detection of viral RNA and seroconversion in repeatedly sampled serotine bats indicates long-term circulation of the virus in a particular bat colony. The limitations of random-based active bat rabies surveillance over passive bat rabies surveillance and its possible application of targeted approaches for future research activities on bat lyssavirus dynamics and maintenance are discussed.