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Bat-catcher: Rare bat species not spotted in London for 50 years swoops in to Hainault

PUBLISHED: 14:56 12 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:01 12 December 2017

A barbastelle bat in flight
EADT 10 03 06
ES 10 03 06

A barbastelle bat in flight EADT 10 03 06 ES 10 03 06

Archant

Ecologists are going batty after one of the UK’s rarest bats, the elusive barbastelle, was spotted in an ancient forest in Redbridge.

Barbastelle bat by Hugh Clark of the Bat Conservation TrustBarbastelle bat by Hugh Clark of the Bat Conservation Trust

Static bat detectors set-up in farm buildings at Hainault Forest Country Park, which was used as medieval royal hunting ground, detected the creature.

A sonagraph sound spectrum recorded evidence of the bat’s return to the capital, which has not been seen for more than 50 years in London and has disappeared from some countries.

The rarity of the bat may mean that the barn, where they will be hibernating over winter, may soon be considered as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

This spotting brings the total of resident bat species recorded in London to 11 out of the 17 species occurring in the UK.

Claire Howe, mammal specialist at Natural England, said: “It’s fabulous to see barbastelles recorded in the city again.

“This demonstrates that with positive habitat management, our protected sites can give a home to species we had thought previously lost from the capital.”

The species, which prefers to make its home in the crevices of old trees in mature forests, has already disappeared from some countries.

In the UK, its breeding roosts are only found in a handful of locations, and the bat is absent from Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In Janaury, the park was awarded £4.5million by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

A further £1.25m was invested by Redbridge Council, and £250,000 from Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure.

Covering a total of 800 acres, Hainault Forest, in Romford Road, Chigwell, includes 250 acres of greenbelt and ancient woodland.

Councillor Sheila Bain, cabinet member for civic pride, said: “Hainault Forest is such an important site for the residents of Redbridge.

Our project to ensure the sustainability of the forest shows the importance of preserving this ancient forest and its wildlife for the future generations of London.”

“Our green spaces are essential to Redbridge’s bid to become the London borough of culture.”

Ecologist at Mostly Bats, Huma Pearce added: “Records like this give merit to the value of London’s woodlands as important wildlife refuges that must be preserved.”

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