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Wildlife trust's boost for rare bat roost.

A FIRST-EVER handbook for one of Britain's rarest bats aims to consolidate the animal's revival in South Wales.

The Vincent Wildlife Trust handbook is dedicated to the conservation of the lesser horseshoe bat and is expected to establish the UK as a centre for the species' conservation in Europe, and is the first in the trust's 33-year history.

South Wales is a stronghold for the lesser horseshoe bat and its many roosts include the largest colony in the UK near Bwlch, between Brecon and Crickhowell, which is home to more than 700 animals. Their favourite roost is in pre-1900 stone buildings with slate roofs.

The trust, a national charity based near Ledbury, manages nine reserves in South Wales, which accommodate around 25% of the region's lesser horseshoe bats.

"In producing the handbook our aim is to help conservation professionals do their jobs even better," said trust chief executive Natalie Buttriss. The handbook will help them avoid one-solution-fits-all approaches, which just don't work for lesser horseshoe bats, by promoting a greater understanding of their unique ecology."

Ms Buttriss said numbers were increasing, and that meant it was more likely that people would find roosting sites - especially with so many old buildings being developed.

"We often hear about professionals who need to know more about lesser horseshoe bats, so we have developed the handbook to help raise levels of expertise and ensure natural population recovery continues," she said.

Lesser horseshoe bats became a protected species in the UK in 1981, but the animal is more difficult to help than more widespread species such as the pipistrelle and brown long-eared bat. It has very specific roosting requirements, is extremely sensitive to light, noise and disturbance and, unlike other bats, is unable to crawl so it needs a clear flight path into its roost.

UK populations have been increasing in recent years, partly due to milder winters.

There are now an estimated 25,000 lesser horseshoe bats in the UK, and around 4,000 are in Vincent Wildlife Trust's reserves in Wales and the West Country.

Copies of the handbook cost pounds 19.95 and can be ordered by email at vwt@vwt.org.uk or by phoning 01531 636441.

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REVIVAL: Lesser horseshoe bat
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 11, 2008
Words:372
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