4th October 2007

England goes in to 'bat' with help of Heritage Lottery Fund

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has today announced an award of £596,000 for 'England Count Bat', an imaginative four-year project run by the Bat Conservation Trust, which will help conserve and record England's dwindling but precious bat population.

Chris Packham, Conservationist, Broadcaster and President of the Bat Conservation Trust, said: "It is fantastic that the Heritage Lottery Fund is supporting England Count Bat. We believe everyone should have the chance to learn more about bats and to help these amazing creatures, and this project will make that happen."

Carole Souter, Director of HLF, said: "Bats are fascinating but often misunderstood creatures. The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to support this project because it will involve over 5,000 volunteers across England in innovative projects which will not only help people look after their local bat population but also give them a greater understanding of how important they are to both our fragile ecosystem and our natural heritage."

The 'England Count Bat' project will involve a number of bat conservation activities which will help to open up the fascinating and sometimes hidden world of bats to a wider and more diverse range of people. 168 educational events - such as bat walks, bat monitoring programmes, talks, road shows and arts and crafts activities - will involve thousands of volunteers and help them to learn more about the importance of these gentle mammals and how they can be best protected in the future.

Fantastic bat facts

  • There are currently 17 species of bats in the UK.
  • Bats and their roosts are all protected by national and European law due to the dramatic decrease in their numbers.
  • Bats make up one-third of the UK mammalian biodiversity.
  • Bats are unique to the natural heritage as they are the only true flying mammal and are a crucial part of the UK 's delicately balanced biodiversity.
  • Operating at the top of the food chain, bats keep in check the numbers of insects active between the hours of dusk and darkness when birds are largely absent. Their role is increasingly important as our climate warms-up and insect numbers increase - a single pipistrelle bat can eat 3,000 insects in the evening whilst a colony of bats eats millions of insects over the summer months.
  • Bats only have one baby at a time and can live up to 30 years.
  • Bats are more closely related to people than mice.
  • The term 'blind as a bat' is totally inaccurate - bats can see but mainly use a sonar system called 'echolocation'. This is above the range of human hearing, but can be heard by people using a 'bat detector'.

HLF has funded a variety of projects relating to bats. An example is 'Batscapes - for People and Bats' in Bath , recipient of an HLF grant of £178,500. This project has helped identify sites and landscapes of importance to horseshoe bats, monitoring populations of a range of bat species, and providing advice to the public and landowners about how to protect them.

HLF has invested a total of £160.4 million in 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.

Notes to Editors

- The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) enables communities to celebrate, look after and learn more about our diverse heritage. From our great museums and historic buildings to local parks and beauty spots or recording and celebrating traditions, customs and history, HLF grants open up our nation's heritage for everyone to enjoy. It has supported more than 26,000 projects, allocating £4billion across the UK . www.hlf.org.uk .

- HLF-supported projects have involved more than 120,000 volunteers - together giving over a millennium of their time to UK heritage.

- The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) is the only UK organisation solely devoted to the conservation of bats and their habitats. BCT wants a future where everyone, everywhere can enjoy watching and hearing bats as part of their natural environment. With the dedicated support of its members, volunteers and the local bat groups, BCT helps bats through practical conservation projects and research, by supporting and educating people who find bats in their property, and by encouraging everyone to appreciate and enjoy these fascinating animals.

- The project is also supported by the City Bridge Trust and Natural England in London.

For further information For England Count Bat:Jaime EasthamBat Conservation Trust T: 0207 501 3635

For the Heritage Lottery Fund:Katie Owen or Dervish MertcanHLF Press OfficeT: 0207591 6036/6102 M: 07973 613820.