For Immediate Press Release
- DNA analysis confirms presence of grey long-eared bat in Somerset church
- There are thought to be only 1,000 grey long-eared bats in England and records are precious
- The bat was discovered by a volunteer for the National Bats in Churches Survey and ‘shows the power of citizen science’
Volunteers for the National Bats in Churches Survey have discovered one of the rarest mammals in Britain living in a Somerset church.
DNA analysis of droppings found in the church confirmed the presence of grey long-eared bat, alongside the more common brown long-eared bat and serotine.
This is only the second time a grey long-eared bat has been discovered by the National Bats in Churches Survey, a volunteer-led citizen science project run by the Bats in Churches partnership of heritage and conservation organisations. In 2020, DNA evidence confirmed the presence of the species in a church in Devon.
Claire Boothby, training and surveys officer at Bats in Churches, said: ‘The National Bats in Churches Survey is allowing us to make exciting new discoveries about bats and their use of churches, including the confirmation of one of the rarest British mammals in a Somerset church.
‘As we know so few grey long-eared bat roosting sites, each confirmation of the species is precious. Through the National Bats in Churches Survey we’ve gained records from more than 700 churches across the country, showing the power of citizen science. Thanks to our team of volunteers, our research will give us needed knowledge to better conserve bats and provide information and support for churches.’
There are thought to be only around 1,000 grey long-eared bats in England and the species has suffered through habitat loss, with unimproved grasslands, its favourite foraging habitat, declining by 92% in the last century, according to Bat Conservation Trust.
The grey long-eared bat is so vulnerable it was made a target species for the Back from the Brink project, an ambitious nationwide partnership to save some of England’s most threatened species from extinction. Bat Conservation Trust also worked with East Devon AONB to expand the work of Back from the Brink.
Carol Williams, director of conservation at Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), said: ‘Although both of these projects have now completed, BCT has other projects in the pipeline to continue to help this species.
‘It’s very encouraging to be aware of more records coming in from Somerset. When there are so few of this species left in England, knowing where the remaining animals are is of great importance.’
Edward Wells, Somerset Bat Group member, said: ‘What is quite clear is that we are getting more and more records of grey long-eared bats coming over the last five years.
‘It’s quite likely that it has been under-recorded, not least because its close relative, the brown long-eared bat, is our third commonest species and observers tend to go with the most likely identification.’
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For further information please contact;
Communications Officer, Bats in Churches
T: 07742 584956
Bats in Churches is a five-year partnership between the Church of England, Bat Conservation Trust, Natural England, Historic England and the Churches Conservation Trust, majority funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. You can find out more about the project at batsinchurches.org.uk
The project oversees the National Bats in Churches Survey, a citizen science project to capture data about how and why bats are using churches. Volunteers for the survey have now submitted records from more than 700 ancient churches around England.
To date Bats in Churches has funded practical interventions at 34 churches, and supplied 25 more with surveys and bat management plans, along with assistance on fundraising for mitigation work.
Additionally, the project offers practical help with cleaning, solutions for interiors affected by bats, education in the form of bat events and visits to local schools
Bats in Churches works with Church of England and CCT churches in England.
About the Mammal Society;
One in four of our native mammals is threatened with extinction, and many others are in decline. With Britain now recognised as one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, urgent action is needed. The Mammal Society is working to give our wildlife a better future by:
- Keeping a constant watch on the conservation status of our mammals and making this information freely available
- Making conservation more effective by providing guidance on what to do and where to do it
- Educating the public and professionals about wild mammals, training people to survey them, and sharing the latest research
- Working in partnership to restore native mammal populations and re-establish functional ecosystems
The Mammal Society is the only charity with an interest in all British mammals. The Mammal Society’s conservation work is supported through the generosity of our supporters. A list of our current and past projects can be found here – https://www.mammal.org.uk/science-research/surveys/ To join the Mammal Society visit www.mammal.org.uk. Recent Mammal Society publications include The State of Mammals in Wales and the Atlas of the Mammals of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.