Local people are needed to help find out more about the horseshoe bat’s feeding habits.

Exeter scientists helping to protect rare horseshoe bat

Researchers at The University of Exeter are part of a major new project taking place across Devon aimed at finding out more about one of the country’s rarest bats.

The greater horseshoe bat has declined by at least 90% in the UK in the past 100 years, largely due to the loss of their habitat due to development and urbanization. 

Devon has an internationally important population of the mammal, and in one of the first projects of its kind, a range of partners from across the county are joining together to try to achieve landscape-scale changes of habitat for the benefit of bats and people.

The Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project involves a substantial element of citizen science, with local people needed to help find out more about the bat’s feeding habits.

On Friday August 8, a training event will be held at the Mariners Hall in Beer for those who would like to learn how to operate a simple bat detector device and take part in the survey. 

Dr Fiona Mathews of Biosciences at the University of Exeter, who is jointly leading the project, said: “Horseshoe bats have declined dramatically over the last 50 years, mirroring intensification of farming and urban expansion.  Even in Devon, which is the species' main stronghold, 98% of species-rich flower meadows have disappeared since the War. 

“This project aims to firstly identify areas used by the species which will then be used to guide conservation activities, and secondly to monitor over time the effectiveness of habitat improvement.”

Over the next 12 months, the team plan to recruit local people to monitor 200 locations in Devon, and follow this up over future years.

The team from the University of Exeter will supply the equipment, design the survey strategy and ultimately analyse and interpret the data.

Greater horseshoe bats are one of 16 bat species found in Britain. With wingspans of up to 40cm they are also one of the largest, and take their name from the remarkable horseshoe-shaped organ on their noses, which the bat's use to navigate and find prey.

The initiative, which successfully gained Heritage Lottery Funding earlier this year, brings together a range of organisations from the charitable conservation sector, areas of outstanding natural beauty, statutory bodies and planning authorities.

For more information about the event in Beer visit the Devon Wildlife Trust website.

Date: 7 August 2014

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