Appeal launched to save the home of rare bat colony in West Sussex

Greater horseshoe bats are caught on camera flying at night Credit: Andrew McCarthy

An appeal has been launched to help save the home of a colony of greater horseshoe bats which were recently discovered living in West Sussex.

The site, where they were found, is currently up for sale and is 100km east of the bats' current stronghold in Devon and Dorset.

Experts say it is an "enormously encouraging sign" for a bat that suffered an estimated 90% decline in Britain during the 20th century.

The derelict stable where the bats were found Credit: Martyn Phillis

Until now, it was thought that that greater horseshoe bat was largely confined to south-west England and parts of Wales.

Their population dropped to an estimated low of around 4,000, but is now around 13,000 - which could have helped fuel this colony in West Sussex.

Sheila Wright, Secretary to the Sussex Bat Group said:

“Right now, this is probably the most important greater horseshoe bat roost site in Britainand the most significant find since the group was formed in 1984.

"It was discovered by a member of Sussex Bat Group in 2019 and we are determined to raise the funds needed to secure the building for this vitally important bat colony. As well as wardening and managing the site, there will also be opportunities for volunteers to help with the monitoring of the bats.”

One of the greater horseshoe bats caught mid flight Credit: Frank Greenaway

The charity says it needs to raise significant funds to purchase the derelict stable lock where the bats were found, and has nine months to do so.

It hopes to protect this small colony, which it says could become a diversity success.

Dr Lucy Rogers, CEO with wildlife charity Vincent Wildlife Trust said:

“With help, this small but hugely significant colony of greater horseshoe bats could become a real biodiversity success story — a species on the road to recovery and now returning to one of its former haunts after an absence of more than a century."