Race on to save colony of rare bats as secret Sussex home faces collapse

Malcolm Shaw reports on the bats' plight from a secret location in West Sussex.

An urgent appeal has been launched to save a colony of extremely rare bats discovered in West Sussex. 

It's the first time the Greater Horseshoe has been found in the county for a hundred years. 

But the old stables they're using are falling down, and the race is on to repair the building before the bats lose their home. 

Bats roosting in the eaves of the stables

Once widespread across Southern Britain, the species suffered a catastrophic decline of 95%, and was on the edge of extinction.

Tony Hutson from the Sussex Bat Group says a number of factors led to the decline.

"Bats, particularly these greater horseshoe bats, are becoming increasingly reliant on buildings, but they have been pressured by renovations and timber treatment chemicals that are no good for them."

The stable block is perfect for bats but in danger of collapse

The building, in a secret location, is potentially ideal.  But it's in danger of collapse, exposing the bats to the elements and to predators. 

Now, the Sussex Bat Group is working with the Vincent Wildlife Trust to save them. 

An urgent appeal has been launched to raise £200,000 for repairs. 

Parts of the roof have already fallen in

The timing is crucial, as there is only a small window during the winter when the bats will vacate the stables, as they head to caves to hibernate.

The repair work must be carried out before they return to breed in the spring.

This pioneer colony, as it's known, is the only one in a sixty mile radius. Now the pressure is on to secure their future.