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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 July 2007, 07:09 GMT 08:09 UK
Downpours 'starving' young bats
Pipistrelle bat
The pipistrelle is the smallest bat in the UK
The recent heavy rain is causing Sussex's bat population to suffer, according to an animal welfare group.

Sussex Bat Group said it had rescued 30 weak and starving pipistrelles in the last month because the downpours have made their food scarce.

Amanda Millar, from the group, said: "We have never experienced anything like this before, it's horrendous."

She said young bats that were learning to fly could not catch enough insects at night because it had been so wet.

'Not strong enough'

Ms Millar said: "As a result they are simply not strong enough, which is why they are being discovered on the ground.

"The ones we are rescuing are probably just the tip of the iceberg so we were very impressed at the lengths South East Water and its contractors went to in order to help this poorly bat."

South East Water meter reader Tim Harfield helped rescue a starving bat from a house in Ditchling, East Sussex, on Tuesday.

He said: "I didn't want to disturb the bat as I knew they were a protected species and also it may have been injured.

"I got onto the office and they eventually tracked down someone from the Sussex Bat group who put me in touch with a nearby volunteer."

He added: "Under their guidance, I used a spare high-vis work vest to gently pick up the bat before putting it in a spare cardboard box that I had in my van, which I'd already punched with air holes, and then rushed it to the rescue centre."

Sussex Bat Group run three rescue centres in the county.

They have urged anyone who finds a sick or injured bat to call the Bat Conservation Trust helpline for advice.

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