Our Work | Bat Reserves
In the 1980s, the VWT established a number of reserves for otters on the Somerset Levels, together with the purchase of a major roost for greater horseshoe bats in Devon. From the early 1990s, further bat roosts were acquired and today the Trust manages some 40 roost sites in Britain and Ireland.
From the mid-1990s, the VWT has concentrated much of its resources on bat conservation, including the protection and enhancement of roosts for rare bats. It has acquired a number of key breeding roosts for rarer bats and specifically the horseshoe bats. Most of the Trust’s reserves are old buildings and most are summer roosts. In the south-west of England the Trust’s reserves include one of the largest greater horseshoe bat roosts in Europe and together the VWT’s reserves support a substantial proportion of the British greater horseshoe bat population. Additionally, in Wales, we manage a roost site that is home to the largest known lesser horseshoe maternity colony in western Europe, and in Ireland the Trust’s reserves collectively provide a home to 20% of the Irish lesser horseshoe bat population.
The course of action undertaken once a roost has been leased or purchased by the Trust depends on the condition of the building. In some cases only minor works have been necessary to ensure the building continues as a suitable breeding site, but where the building has been in an advanced state of disrepair, major rebuilding work is necessary. Although the buildings acquired have ranged from single storey stone cottages to much larger structures, the aim of the renovation work is the same: to provide a structurally-sound building that also meets the roosting needs of the bats.
At some reserves, ‘bat specific’ features have been incorporated to further enhance the building, based on research and practical measures tested at VWT sites. This work is described in detail in our Lesser Horseshoe Bat Conservation Handbook.
As part of the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project, a camera has been installed in one of our large greater horseshoe roosts. You can see some fantastic live footage on the website of the bats in the roost. The best time to watch it is just before sunset when the bats are flying around inside the roost in preparation to emerge for the night. Visit the Devon Bat Greater Horseshoe Bat Project website to view the live footage.