5th August 2013
New research shows just 1000 grey long-eared bats remain in the UK and numbers are declining.The UK's grey long-eared bats need greater conservation efforts before we lose them" - Dr Orly Razgour is calling for this little-known species to be afforded 'Priority Species' status in the newly published Conserving grey long-eared bats in our landscape: conservation management plan.
Dr Razgour is the lead author of the plan. It's based on new research she conducted into the species at the University of Bristol, in collaboration with the Bat Conservation Trust. Her research has shown the estimated population of these bats in the UK is around 1,000 animals and the population is declining. Prior to her study it had been hoped the bats were more numerous, sadly her findings confirm how very rare they are.
The bats are confined to small pockets along the south coast of England, including the Isle of Wight, with a small number found in the Channel Islands and a single record from South Wales.
The UK grey long-eared bat population comprises two distinct genetic groups and Dr Razgour is concerned that the low numbers mean the future survival of the species in the UK is questionable, unless more is done to protect the remaining few. She calls for more work to identify, monitor and protect maternity roost sites, where female bats raise their young, and hibernation sites.
Dr Orly Razgour:
"Despite being one the rarest UK mammals, up until recently there was very little known about the grey long-eared bat and what it needs to survive. Studying the grey long-eared bat, I realised that the plight of this bat demonstrates many of the threats and conservation challenges facing wildlife, from the effects of habitat loss and climate change to the problem of small isolated populations.
The UK grey long-eared bat population has been declining and has become fragmented in the past century. This decline and fragmentation is likely to be in response to the dramatic decline of lowland meadows and marshlands, the bat's main foraging habitats. The long-term survival of the grey long-eared bat UK population is closely linked to the conservation of these lowland meadows and marshland habitats. The conservation management plan is calling to prioritise the conservation status of the grey long-eared bat and use this bat as a flagship species to promote the conservation and restoration of lowland grasslands."
Lowland meadows and marshland habitats have all but disappeared in the UK following changes to land management and farming practices in the latter half of the last century. As these bats prey on agricultural pests, encouraging these bats in the farmed landscape may benefit the wider farming community if bat numbers increase dramatically.
Traditionally a cave-dwelling species grey long-eared bats have become dependent on our buildings for roost sites. Their roost requirements are specific; they need large open spaces in lofts and barns close to foraging habitat. These roosts are under threat from building development and Dr Razgour is calling for identification, monitoring and protection of roost sites and their surrounding grassland area.
Key findings of Dr Razgour's research:
- The grey long-eared bat should be afforded "Priority Species status" by Natural England and the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs to ensure that more funds are directed towards protecting its habitat.
- Maternity roosts and hibernation sites need to be identified, monitored and protected
- The landscape around and between roosts needs to be protected to increase grassland foraging habitat
Notes for editors:
- Dr Orly Razgour is the lead author of the report and undertook the research during her PhD at the University of Bristol, which was funded by the Hon. Vincent Weir and was carried out in collaboration with the Bat Conservation Trust. The management plan was written as a collaborative project between the Bat Conservation Trust, the University of Bristol and ecological consultants who have worked with the species (Daniel Whtiby and Erika Dahlberg). http://www.bristol.ac.uk/biology/research/postgrad/razgour.o.html
- The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) is the only national organisation solely devoted to the conservation of bats and their habitats in the UK. Its network of 100 local bat groups and more than 1,000 bat workers survey roosts and hibernation sites, and work with householders, builders, farmers and foresters to protect bats. www.bats.org.uk
- The National Bat Helpline 0845 1300 228 is for anyone who finds a grounded or injured bat, believes bats to be at risk and for anyone who thinks they may have bats in their building or wants to let us know about a bat roost site.
For further information: Abi McLoughlin, Press officer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Office: 0207 8207183 Mobile: 07974779521. Interviews with Dr Razgour are available.
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