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Evidence has been found that one of the rarest bats in Britain, the Bechstein’s bat, has a habitat at Westonbirt, the National Arboretum, in Gloucestershire.
As part of a national bat survey, the male Bechstein’s bat was recorded in the ancient area of Silk Wood at the arboretum, which is managed by the Forestry Commission. The discovery was made by the Gloucestershire Bat Group as part of the Bat Conservation Trust’s Bechstein’s Bat Project, together with members of the Westonbirt team.
One of the rarest mammals in the country and a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species, it has been difficult to detect as it rarely leaves the tree canopy.
The bat was lured into a harp trap using ultrasonic social calls broadcast from a system developed at the University of Sussex called ‘the Sussex Autobat’. The bat was released following the survey.
The findings add to only a handful of recorded summer sightings in Gloucestershire. They will help to map the UK distribution of these rare mammals and inform future conservation and woodland management plans.
A lactating female Whiskered bat was also recorded by the group, indicating a maternity roost for this bat is present nearby.
Helen Miller, Bechstein’s bat project officer for the Bat Conservation Trust, explains:
"This project is the first attempt to survey the Bechstein’s bat throughout the UK.
"This Bechstein discovery is one of 13 found this summer across seven counties as part of the project. Each new discovery tells us a bit more about this elusive species."
The evidence of this rare bat has proved a considerable boost to those behind the woodland and conservation management programme at the National Arboretum.
Ben Oliver, Westonbirt’s education and interpretation officer and one of the members of the survey team commented:
"These findings highlight the important role the arboretum’s woodlands play in the conservation of wildlife as well as rare trees.
"A good bat population indicates there is plenty of insect life able to thrive amongst the woodlands here, which means that the woodland management system at the arboretum is creating successful habitats for a range of wildlife."
Join the Gloucestershire Bat Group to discover the bats of Westonbirt on Friday 10 September from 7-9pm. For more information and other walks at Westonbirt visit www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt.
NOTES TO EDITOR
Image attached: The Bechstein’s bat found at Westonbirt. Credit to Westonbirt Arboretum/ Forestry Commission
1. Westonbirt - the National Arboretum is part of the Forestry Commission estate and is renowned worldwide for its tree and shrub collection. Home to the National Japanese Maple (Acer) collection, the National Arboretum covers 243 hectares (600 acres) and contains 16,000 specimens. Visitor numbers are 350,000 a year, with a membership of 23,000. Westonbirt Arboretum was established in the 1850s by wealthy landowner Robert Holford, and later developed by his son George Holford. Unlike many arboreta, Westonbirt is laid out according to aesthetic appeal rather than scientific or geographical criteria.
2. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Further information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk
3. Westonbirt – the National Arboretum is part of the Westonbirt Heritage Partnership, which consists of the Forestry Commission, Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, Westonbirt School and the Holfords of Westonbirt Trust. The Partnership plans to reconnect the historic Westonbirt estate, conserve its unique heritage and inspire future visitors through the Westonbirt Project, supported by The Heritage Lottery Fund.
4. The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum was formed in 1985. The charity’s objects are to support the National Arboretum in promoting public understanding of the crucial role of trees to the environment and society. It is funded by membership receipts from 25,000 members, other fundraising, and the use of the Great Oak Hall for events and activities.
Katrina Podlewska, Communications Manager, Westonbirt the National Arboretum, on 01666 881 207 or email: email@example.com
Heather McFarlane, Communications and Development Manager, Bat Conservation Trust on 020 7501 3635 / 0845 1300 228, or email firstname.lastname@example.org