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Moths and bats get up close and personal with parliamentarians

14 October 2008

Tonight, the environmentalist and TV presenter, Chris Packham, is taking MPs and peers on a walk through the Houses of Parliament in search of the endangered moths and bats which have made their homes there.

Chris Packham is joining Madeleine Moon MP*, a passionate biodiversity supporter, and members of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), one of the largest funders of the UK’s natural heritage, the Bat Conservation Trust and Butterfly Conservation, for an evening of bat-detecting and moth-catching. 

Chris Packham, who is President of the Bat Conservation Trust and Vice-President of Butterfly Conservation, said: "This is going to be a fun evening but it also has a more serious side. Those of us who work in nature conservation are extremely worried about the decline of both the bat and moth population and we want to remind people about their important role in the eco-system. It’s brilliant that the Heritage Lottery Fund is providing vital support for projects that help.”

Bats and moths are essential to our eco-system yet their numbers have dramatically decreased. Numbers of moths have dropped by a third since 1968 and bats have experienced a major decline throughout Europe during the last century. Both have also in the past been victims of negative perceptions, making them less desirable for attention than other endangered species.

Madeleine Moon MP said: “The world is losing biodiversity at an ever-increasing rate as a result of human activity. Moth and bat populations have decreased dramatically in the past few decades and I hope that this event will help to raise the importance of this issue.”

Bob Bewley, Director of Operations at HLF, added: “The Heritage Lottery Fund has spent over £2million conserving moths and bats because we see them as the environment’s bricks and mortar. They play a vital role in our fragile ecosystem and losing them would have disastrous repercussions for our natural heritage.”

There are 17 species of bats in the UK all of which are protected by law because their numbers have declined so dramatically. The loss has largely been due to their roosts being disturbed and a fall in the abundance of insects (such as moths) which are their sole source of food.

Just over 60 species of moth became extinct in the 20th century largely due to habitat loss and fragmentation, through, for example, the intensification of agriculture, loss of hedgerows and a lack of woodland management. Light pollution, pesticide use and climate change are other impacts that are likely to be adversely affecting moth populations.

The bat walk will begin at 6.15pm in Central Lobby, after which MPs and peers will have a chance to observe different bat and moth species close-up. This is followed by a reception in Parliament where the new Biodiversity Minister, Huw Irranca-Davies MP, will be speaking.

Photos of the evening will be available on request.

Notes

  • *Tonight's event is the third annual moth and bat walk that Madeleine Moon MP has sponsored.
  • Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, HLF invests in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported more than 26,000 projects, allocating over £4billion across the UK. Website: www.hlf.org.uk.
  • HLF has invested more than £161million on biodiversity projects and, to date, 11 of HLF’s species-specific projects count towards Species Action Plan targets. Endangered species protected with the help of HLF grants include: basking sharks; red-barbed ants; water voles; and black grouse.
  • In May 2007, Sir David Attenborough launched the first of a series of initiatives in a campaign to halt the alarming decline in Britain’s moth population. The campaign - Moths Count – was has been made possible by an HLF grant of £806,000.
  • The Bat Conservation Trust is the only UK charity solely devoted to helping bats and their habitats. BCT has almost 5,000 members. BCT also runs the national Bat Helpline: 0845 1300 228, which provides information and advice about bats. Count Bat, which aims to introduce new people to bat conservation, was awarded an HLF grant of £596,000 in September 2007.
  • Butterfly Conservation is the UK charity taking action to save butterflies, moths and their habitats. Butterfly Conservation staff and volunteers survey and monitor species, provide habitat management advice, with particular attention being given to threatened species, and maintain a series of reserves. Butterfly Conservation has 13,500 members and is the largest organisation of its kind in Europe. www.butterfly-conservation.org.uk.

Further information
For more information, please contact Clare Makepeace or Katie Owen at the Heritage Lottery Fund press office, 0207 591 6143/6036 or clarem@hlf.org.uk/Katieo@hlf.org.uk. Out of hours mobile: 07973 613820.

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