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National Bat Helpline report 2017 released

10 August 2018

The National Bat Helpline continues to play a crucial role in raising awareness of bats and, as our president Chris Packham recently stated, it is difficult to see how we would have made the significant gains to bat conservation without it. The National Bat Helpline receives thousands of enquiries each year from building professionals, householders with bat roost questions, and members of the public who have found injured and grounded bats. As a result, thousands of bats and their roosts are saved from damage or destruction. It is with this in mind that we are releasing the latest National Bat Helpline report which can be downloaded from here: http://www.bats.org.uk/data/files/Helpline_Annual_Report_2017.pdf

In 2017 the Helpline team received over 17,000 enquiries, the majority (76.5%) of these enquiries were received between April and September. For a large part of this peak season the National Bat Helpline was able to operate an emergency Out of Hours (OOH) service thanks to an incredibly dedicated team of 38 trained volunteers who handled emergency calls during the evenings and weekends. May 2017 proved to be the second busiest May in the 13 year history of the OOH service. We would also like to extend a special thank you to the UK Bat Care Network. This is a network of independent volunteers who assist with injured or grounded bats that are found by the general public. The network currently consists of 358 volunteer bat rehabilitators, 12 regional helplines and 11 wildlife hospitals. There is no doubt that the work by the Helpline team and the bat care network in assisting the public with grounded, injured or orphaned bats saves thousands of bats every year. In 2017 the Helpline received a total of 8,141 bat care enquiries.

The majority of calls received by the Helpline (39.7%) related to Natural England casework which cover enquiries within England regarding development, enquirers’ roosts and arranging of roost visits. You can find out more about this aspect of the National Bat Helpline work here: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/natural_england_roost_visits.html. The Helpline was able to offer advice on behalf of Natural England without the need for a visit to 3,656 enquirers. The Helpline also organised a total of 1,050 visits by licensed Volunteer Bat Roost Visitors (VBRVs) on behalf of Natural England in 2017. Natural England VBRVs also deserve a huge thanks for their commitment and dedication to bat conservation. Being able to provide a service whereby enquirers can get help and advice about bats is an invaluable tool in promoting conservation and protecting bats and their roosts. We actively seek feedback from roost owners as part of the Natural England advice service. In 2017, 95% of respondents rated the overall service as “excellent” or “good.”

The National Bat Helpline is often the first point of contact for members of the public and bat workers reporting allegations of criminal offences involving bats. Where a member of the public thinks a wildlife crime has been committed, the Helpline guides them through the process of reporting this to the police. There were 591 enquiries relating to bat crime or bat roosts disturbed during building work in 2017. Of these the Helpline passed 35 of these calls on for further investigation by the police, Local Planning Authority or Conservation Wildlife Crime Officer. To find out more about the Wildlife Crime work see: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/bearing_witness_for_wildlife_-_conservation_wildlife_crime.html

Another vitally important part of what the National Bat Helpline does is raise awareness of bats and bat conservation by answering questions and providing information to enquirers who want to learn more about bats. The work the Helpline does helps to dispel some of the more common misconceptions that people often have about bats.  To quote our president again “The National Bat Helpline provides an emergency service for bats and people who encounter them. The Helpline staff and volunteers engage with thousands of people every year, they are able to advise and educate in a way that would be difficult by any other means. Its critically important that this service is maintained and improved in order to make sure we don’t lose the huge gains made in bat conservation over the last decade.”

If you wish to support the work being done by the National Bat Helpline please see: https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/bats/helptheemergencyserviceforbats or alternatively email comms@bats.org.uk

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