Back in the summer of 2017 I visited Kiri and Stewart, an amazing couple who voluntarily run a hospital for injured bats in their Bristol home. As bat-carers with Avon Bat Group and Avon Bat Care, they respond to calls across Somerset, rescuing and rehabilitating up to 100 bats every year. Many of the bats they take in have had near-fatal misses with cats and cars, so I wanted to show the round-the-clock dedication that these two volunteers give to these well-known but seldom seen animals.
In the UK, bat populations have declined considerably over the last century. Building development often disturbs bats out of hibernation and maternity roosts, forcing them to find new roost sites at a critical time. Common causes of injury to bats include attacks from cats, flypaper, collisions with buildings and some chemical treatments of building materials, whilst the presence of wind turbines and lighting near to prime bat habitat can have devastating consequences for a roost.
Above: David, an old serotine bat who is unable to fly because of a wing defect since birth, gets a daily checkover from carer Kiri. When disturbed, bats will bark and bare their teeth in self defence.
Above: Chinook, a Brown Long-Eared Bat, was attacked by a cat and tore his wing in multiple places. Although the whiter wing tissue has healed well, his chances of survival are low, so Chinook will stay on as an educational bat to inform the public and carers about the risks that threaten bats.
Above: The Avon region is a UK stronghold for the rare Leisler's bat, but even in Bristol only one maternity roost is known to exist. Toothless has a dislocated wrist and so cannot fly, and is currently the only Leisler's bat in Kiri and Stewart's care.
Above: It's dinner time for Bridge, a young common pipistrelle. Bridge has suffered from brain damage since a collision with a house window in 2013, and has been living ever since in a hamper in Kiri and Stewart's kitchen. Incapable of catching his own prey, he is hand-fed live mealworms to keep his weight up. A wild pipistrelle can catch up to 3000 insects in a single night.
Above: Fortunately for many bats there is a happy ending. Pluto, a soprano pipistrelle, stretches his flight muscles in the sitting room before being released back into the wild after just 2 weeks in care.