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Bats fall from Durham Cathedral fall as temperatures soar

22 September 2023


WHEN the temperature goes up, the bats come down — or, at least, that seems to be true at Durham Cathedral, where the recent heatwave led to an increase in dehydrated bats falling from the roof.

The cloisters of Durham Cathedral are home to about 600 Pipistrelle bats, and are the second-largest roost of the species in the UK. Last week, BBC Look North reported that many, suffering from dehydration, were falling to the ground.

“Which service do you require? Fire, police, or bat ambulance?”

A member of the Cathedral Experience Team, Simeon Pallister, explained how staff, trained by the Durham Bat Group, respond to the stricken creatures: “We handle the bats gently, and place them in the bat ambulance, which has a little lid, with some water.

“The ones that are poorly, dehydrated, or young, we feed them, and, using a syringe, give them tiny droplets of water. Then you see them slowly taking the water and gaining the energy.”

The phenomenon of the falling bats occurs throughout the summer, but was particularly frequent during the recent heatwave. Those rescued from the floor are assessed each day by members of the Durham Bat Group, and released when they are judged to have recovered enough.

On Thursday of last week, an event was held in London to mark the conclusion soon of a five-year, £5-million conservation project, Bats in Churches (News, 24 February 2017).

The full-day event at St Mary Magdalene’s, Paddington, brought together representatives from Natural England, the Bat Conservation Trust, Historic England, the Churches Conservation Trust, and the Church of England, all of which were involved in the project.

Over the past five years, the project has worked with 125 churches to offer support in managing bat roosts, and has inaugurated a scheme in which volunteers helped to collect data on bat populations.

The project was supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The organisations head of Land, Sea and Nature Policy, Drew Bennellick, said: “Historic churches and their churchyards provide vital habitats for our natural heritage, and it is brilliant that the learning from this project will help many more churches and historic buildings to enable nature and people to live happily in close proximity in future.”

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