20th June 2008

Welsh bats get a helping hand from the Heritage Lottery Fund

The Bat Conservation Trust has been awarded almost £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for 'Wales Count Bat', an imaginative two year project which will help conserve and record Wales's vulnerable bat population by encouraging a more diverse range of people to get involved in conservation activities.

Amy Coyte, Chief Executive of the Bat Conservation Trust, said: "We're delighted the Heritage Lottery Fund is supporting the Wales Count Bat project. It is a truly innovative project that will open up the world of bats to a wider range of people and directly help us to conserve our precious bat populations. We believe everyone should have the chance to learn more about bats and to help these amazing creatures, and this project will enable that to happen."

"Wales is a stronghold for some of Europe's most vulnerable bat species, such as the lesser horseshoe bat, so the volunteers taking part in the project will be playing a vital role in supporting native wildlife both in Wales and internationally."

The Wales Count Bat project will engage more than 500 volunteers, including people from Welsh language speaking communities, young people, black and minority ethnic communities, adults with learning difficulties and people with limited mobility. Volunteers will take part in a range of bat conservation and educational activities, such as bat walks, bat monitoring programmes, talks, road shows and arts and crafts activities, to help them to learn more about the importance of these gentle mammals and how they can be best protected in the future.

The project will be run in collaboration with the existing network of local bat groups in Wales. The 16 bat groups are made up of many dedicated volunteers who are the mainstay of bat conservation in the UK, undertaking vital conservation work.

Jennifer Stewart, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund in Wales, said: "The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to support this project as it will create really innovative opportunities for people to understand these fascinating but often misunderstood creatures. Bat festivals and bat walks will appeal to a wide range of people and give them a greater understanding of how important they are to both our fragile ecosystem and our natural heritage."

There are 15 species of bats in Wales, and populations of all have declined dramatically since 1900 so BCT is working hard to ensure bats and their habitats in Wales are protected.

Fantastic bat facts

  • There are currently 17 species of bats in the UK, 15 of which can be found in Wales.
  • Bats and their roosts are all protected by national and European law due to the dramatic decrease in their numbers during the past century.
  • 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.
  • Bats are an 'indicators' species which means they are a sign of a green and healthy environment. 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 a year 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'.

Notes to Editors

- 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. http://www.bats.org.uk/. Bat Helpline 0845 1300 228.

- 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, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported more than 26,000 projects, allocating over £4billion across the UK. To date, HLF has invested £190 million to 1,700 projects in Wales. Website: http://www.hlf.org.uk/.

- The Wales Count Bat project was awarded a total of £49,400 as part of HLF's 'Your Heritage' grants programme.

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

- HLF has funded a variety of projects relating to bats, including the 'England Count Bat' project which launched in Autumn 2007, thanks to a £596,000 grant from HLF.

- The Wales Count Bat project is also supported by the Countryside Council for Wales and Environment Wales.

- Volunteers are at the heart of bat conservation in the UK. Last year alone, almost 1,000 people took part in BCT's National Bat Monitoring Programme surveys, and more sites are being monitored than ever before. The level of commitment and dedication shown by the volunteers is inspiring. They venture out in the evening to numerous sites, often making several repeat visits during the year, to ensure the monitoring is consistent. Volunteers also undertake 'roost visits' providing free advice to householders who have bats in their house, and run the out of hours service for the National Bat Helpline, which offers free information and advice on bats, directly saving the lives of thousands of bats every year and providing help and education on bat issues to the general public.

For further information For Wales Count BatJaime EasthamBat Conservation Trust T: 0207 501 3635

For the Heritage Lottery Fund:Liz GirlinT: 029 20 234151