Britain's population of some 6,600 greater horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) is restricted to south and west Wales and south-west England, although individual bats are still recorded as far away as Surrey and Leicestershire.
The lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros) is now restricted to Wales, the west midlands and south-west England, but in the early 1900s it was found as far north as Yorkshire and east along the south coast of England to Kent. The size of the British population at that time is unknown, but is certain to have been much higher than today's estimate of about 18,000 individuals.
Of the two species, only the lesser horseshoe bat is found in Ireland where an estimated population of between 9,000 and 10,000 individuals is restricted to the mid-west and south-west of the country.
The Vincent Wildlife Trust has sought to conserve horseshoe bats through:
- the establishment of reserves in both Britain and Ireland, one of which contains the largest breeding colony of greater horseshoe bats in Europe
- monitoring the populations of horseshoe bats in key roosts
- carrying out work to secure, maintain and improve both hibernation and summer roosts
- major studies of the roosting and foraging ecology of both species
- undertaking a major assessment of the foraging areas and commuting routes surrounding key greater and lesser horseshoe bat breeding roosts
- surveys of buildings in south-west England, the west midlands, Wales and Ireland for undiscovered horseshoe bat roosts
- a study of the effects of Ivermectin, a chemical cattle treatment, which reduces the number of insects in cow pat communities on which greater horseshoe bats are known to feed
The Trust is helping to further the conservation of lesser horseshoe bats in the Usk Valley through the Our Beacon for Bats project. This project involves working with local people and communities to achieve a sustainable bat-friendly environment. Read more about the project here.
We have installed a webcam at the Trust's most important lesser horseshoe bat maternity roost in the Usk Valley. You can view live footage from the webcam here.
The Trust recently recorded a piece on lesser horseshoe bats for BBC Radio 4's The Living World programme. The piece was recorded at one of the Trust's lesser horseshoe bat roosts in the Usk Valley where Henry Schofield and Jane Sedgeley discussed the Trust's conservation work with the species. The programme can be listened to on BBC iPlayer.
For more information about bats see our downloads page or visit our publications page.