Bats are surrounding us in the media hype at this particular time of year as Halloween approaches. The public sees them as symbols of fear and it may be this incorrect portrayal of bats, which may add to the vulnerability of these spectacular mammals. In fact, unfortunately, bat numbers are declining globally and on our own doorstep, within Richmond borough, and this should be of big concern to us all.
What is so scary about these little creatures?
Bats are the only mammals that can fly and their nocturnal behaviour lends a helpful hand in controlling the population of crop-destroying insects. They are specially adapted to the dark by echolocation, whereby they make high-frequency noises which allowed them to analyse the location of objects around them by perceiving how the sound echoes off the object. There are more than 1000 species of bats in the world, and eleven of those bat species are known to occur in Richmond-upon-Thames.
The more specialised species within our borough such as the Barbastelle bats are more vulnerable to threats and have reduced in number and range due to habitat loss.
The most common threats to bat distribution within greater London involve:
- Destruction of habitat is especially damage and disturbance to maternity roosts and hibernation sites. It is essential such areas are protected especially as bats are known to use residential homes, lofts and abandoned buildings as mating spots. Therefore it’s important the safety of these animals is made public knowledge and that attitudes are changed to ensure correct management of habitat for bats. SAPs are vital to help improve understanding of legislation protecting these species.
- The loss of habitats where bats can feed on lots of insects can occur due to alterations in land use its imperative bug-rich areas such as wetlands, woodlands and grasslands are conserved in our borough seeing as the botanical gardens, royal parks and the Barnes wetland centre are the best spots to encounter bat species.
- Interruptions to bat commuting routes, for example disturbances to flight paths that provide species with access to resources. A common problem is the growing light pollution in London affecting green corridors which in turn alters bat behaviour and avoidance.
(Photo Hugh Clark, Bat Conservation Trust)
A bat SAP is a Species action plans for bats in greater London devised to promote bat numbers in the borough by raising awareness among planners, land managers and tree contractors. However, anyone can help and get involved conserving bat populations within the borough! Such as helping to create important new artificial roost sites create more suitable feeding habitats. Its vital public awareness and participation in bat conservation is increased, we can help by making bat friendly gardens with roosting space.
For more information visit click here.
We are so lucky as a borough to have so many interesting wildlife species and we must celebrate by protecting local wildlife and improving awareness of vulnerable species such as the bats of Richmond.
By Jemma Chamberlain-Webber (SWLEN Biodiversity Communications Volunteer)