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Rare find for bat research team

20 August 08 09:28 GMT

One of the UK's rarest mammals - a Bechstein's bat - has been discovered by researchers on Dartmoor in Devon.

The team was carrying out a £25,000 research project into a different kind of bat - the Barbastelle - when they discovered the Bechstein's.

A PhD student from Bristol University, Matt Zeale, found both species in the Bovey and Dart Valleys.

The bats were captured using acoustic lures which play back the bats' calls and attract them into a net.

The Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA), the Woodland Trust and the National Trust set up the project to shed more light on the ecology of the Barbastelle bat.

There are thought to be only about 5,000 Barbastelles in the UK, with the Bechstein's bat rarer still with only about 1,500 thought to live in the UK.

Bechstein's bats have long, broad ears and a pink nose - they are agile fliers, catching moths, mosquitoes and beetles in flight or from the ground.

'Practical conservation'

They measure up to 5.3cm(2in) long with a 25cm-30cm (9.8in-13.7in) wing span.

Both species of bat roost under peeling bark and in splits and holes in damaged and dead trees.

The first breeding colony of Barbastelles on Dartmoor was found in 2002 in Dendles Wood National Nature Reserve.

"The Dartmoor discoveries add significantly to our understanding of the ecology and distribution of both species," said Miriam Glendell, DNPA ecologist.

"We are hoping to follow up this research with practical conservation action to secure the bat's future."

There are 17 bat species in the UK, of which 15 have been found in Dartmoor National Park. Because of their declining numbers in the past, all UK bats are protected by law.

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