Organic Milk Coop Launches Year of the Bat with the help of Kate Humble
Forget the Year of the Dragon, 2012 is all about the humble bat according to a group of organic dairy farmers. The Organic Milk Cooperative is launching its very own Year of the Bat this spring in a bid to highlight the plight of these endangered mammals – and it has the backing of wildlife presenter, Kate Humble.
The 400 strong group of organic farmers is planning a host of bat focused activities for 2012, including Bat Walks, making bat boxes, Hedgerow Safaris and hands-on educational workshops for kids. A key element to the Year of the Bat will be the Big Bat Count, with the cooperative aiming to monitor bat life on at least 10% of its farms across the UK. The results of this will also be fed into the Bat Conservation Trust's (BCT) Big Bat Map.
Gill Crane, who is heading up the cooperative’s Year of the Bat activity, explains:
“We want to obtain a snapshot of the bat activity on our organic dairy farms, so we can see where we have bats and what types of bats are making their homes on them. It’s fantastic that we can also feed into what the BCT is doing and help to identify bat hotspots in the UK.”
Kate Humble comments: “The Organic Milk Cooperative’s Year of the Bat is a great way of helping people get to know more about these fascinating creatures. Bats are at risk due to habitat decline and the use of chemical pesticides, which damage their food supply. Often maligned or misunderstood, bats play a vital role. They are excellent biodiversity indicators and tell us about the health of this country's ecosystems. I hope this initiative will help people understand and appreciate bats, rather than fear them.”
There are 18 species of bat in the UK, all of which are fully protected. However, despite this, there has been a disturbing decline in the number of bats over the last century, which has been partly attributed to the destruction of hedgerows, which are excellent feeding areas for bats. In one study, rare Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats were found only on organic farms*, which may be because they feed on dung beetles, which are destroyed by a worming preparation commonly used on non-organic farms.
Gill continues: “Organic hedgerows are really important habitats for bats who feast on the countless insects that hedgerows attract. Our farmers are encouraged to leave some hedgerow plants to grow taller to create a ‘canopy effect’ that is particularly good for foraging bats.
Julia Hanmer, Chief Executive of the Bat Conservation Trust adds “Farms are important bat habitats, as bats live in farm buildings and trees, commute along hedgerows and treelines to reach insect rich hunting grounds over fields and ponds and woods. The Organic Milk Cooperative’s Year of the Bat will celebrate these amazing, but much misunderstood mammals.”