Earthquake emergency equipment used to help Britain’s bats

A technology that has traditionally been used by the emergency services, thermal imaging, is now being employed to help the UK’s plummeting bat population. 

© adrianciurea69/iStock
© adrianciurea69/iStock

Bats are currently on a fast track to becoming the UK’s next endangered species, with their population seeing a sharp decline over the past 50 years.

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Their habitats are under threat from farming practices, construction work, and the loss of acres of woodland each year.

But can we really afford to lose them?

Not according to Joe Nunez-Mino from the Bat Conservation Trust, who argues that by eating pests, bats protect valuable crops, making significant savings for the agriculture industry.

“There are currently 18 species of bats in the UK and what people don’t realise is just how important they are,” comments Nunez-Mino.

“One small bat can eat 3,000 insects a night. Multiply that by the bat population estimate for the UK and that’s billions of insects (and pests) eaten every night by bats in the UK.”

In the US, the contribution bats make has been recognised, and an ‘economic value’ has been put on the creatures as pest controllers.

But their contribution is even more than merely an economic one, as bats also eat pests that transmit diseases.

Looking to a technology that has more traditionally been used by emergency services such as fire and rescue, and more recently to search for earthquake survivors, bat conservation advisor Simon Holmes believes that the key to saving British bats lies in thermal imaging technology.

“Technology is key to monitoring bat populations, and by using thermal imaging we’re now observing them in a way we’ve never been able to before,” he explains.

“Thermal imaging provides an opportunity to observe bats during emergence, re-entry and at hibernation sites. This means we have the ability to better monitor, better understand and ultimately, improve the conservation status of bats in the UK.”

[video:https://youtu.be/xcFMHSWd3SU width:623 height:360]

International Bat Weekend takes place from 27 to 28 August 2016 and is celebrated with a series of events up and down the country. Find out more about how you can get involved.

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Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine