22nd May 2008

The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) has welcomed news that from today, bats will be used by the Government to measure how UK wildlife is faring.

Bats are a vital part of our native wildlife, accounting for almost a third of all mammal species in the UK. Our 17 species of bats are all under threat from a loss of habitat and fewer insects to feed on, and have suffered severe declines during the past century.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) today announced that bats have been added to its set of 'indicator species,' which help measure progress towards the Government's target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010.

Welcoming the announcement, Amy Coyte, Chief Executive of the Bat Conservation Trust, said: "Bats are an excellent indicator of the state of the natural environment. As our wildlife continues to struggle against many threats, it is vital to have indicators of whether current conservation efforts are working. By adding bats to the suite of indicators, we will gain a greater understanding of how our wildlife is faring."

"BCT has been monitoring UK bat populations for more than 10 years under its National Bat Monitoring Programme, with the help of more than 2,000 dedicated volunteers. These long term population trends help to inform conservation work and provide a clearer picture of the state of the UK's bats - and now of our environment as a whole."

Bats can tell us a lot about the state of the environment, as they are top predators of common nocturnal insects, and are sensitive to land use practices, development and building work, and changes in water quality.

Though some species of bat have made slight recoveries in recent years, bat populations remain vulnerable. The pressures they face - such as landscape change, agricultural intensification, development, and habitat fragmentation - are also relevant to many other wildlife species, making them excellent indicators for the wider health of the UK's wildlife. They complement the existing environmental indicators, such as birds and butterflies, in that they are nocturnal, and so are more relevant to less documented environmental changes such as light pollution.

Bats occupy a wide range of habitats, such as wetlands, woodlands, farmland, as well as urban areas. The six species which will now be used as indicator species are the noctule, lesser horseshoe bat, common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, serotine and Daubenton's bat.

Joan Ruddock, Minister for Biodiversity said: "Bats are integral to the environment and are a good indicator of the wildlife we often don't see - such as the insects they feed on. The evidence for all the indicators gathered by organisations such as the Bat Conservation Trust and its volunteers is invaluable to better focus research and conservation action."

For further information, contact:Jaime EasthamTel: 0207 501 3635 / 07813 257 291Email: jeastham@bats.org.uk

Bat Facts

  • There are 17 species of bats resident in the UK - that's more than a quarter of our mammals species.
  • Bats usually only have one baby at a time and can live up to 30 years.
  • Bats are more closely related to people than mice.
  • Britain's most common bat, the pipistrelle, is only 4cm long and weighs about 5 grams - less than a 2p coin.
  • A tiny pipistrelle bat can eat up to 3,000 insects in a night.
  • There are over 1,100 bat species in the world (accounting for 20% of all mammal species). Three-quarters of these eat insects just as British bats do. In the tropics bats also eat many other foods - fruit, flowers, frogs, fish, blood, even other bats!
  • Bats do not build nests; they hang up or creep into cracks and crannies.
  • Bats have excellent navigation skills - they won't get caught in your hair!
  • There are thousands of volunteers working for bats in the UK alone.
  • The Bat Conservation Trust's National Bat Helpline take more than 10,000 enquiries a year from the public.