Environment: Wildlife trust joins fight to save woodland home of rare bat

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The Independent Online
Wildlife campaigners are fighting to save a wood that is home to one of Britain's rarest bat species. Members of Cornwall Wildlife Trust are hoping to secure a safe future for Prideaux Wood, near St Blazey, in Cornwall, one of only 12 known British breeding sites the for the endangered greater horseshoe bat.

The Cornwall Wildlife Trust has received pounds 68,000 in grant aid towards buying the 60-acre site as a nature reserve, but this funding depends on the remaining pounds 6,000 of the purchase price being raised locally.

Senior conservation officer Christopher Howe warns of the consequences if the trust's appeal fails: "If a commercial buyer is able to purchase the wood, the bats are unlikely to survive. The timber crop that was planted in the Sixties is now ready for harvesting. Even felling just a few trees could be disastrous for the bats, as they use the positions of the trees to navigate."

The trust aims to enhance the woodland for other wildlife, link it to the neighbouring Luxulyan Valley and open it up for local people to walk in. This would involve creating footpaths and making exposed mine workings safe.

Fund-raising officer Paul Horak hopes that Prideaux Wood and its rare bats will enjoy the same good fortune as Chun Downs in Penwith, which was the subject of another recent appeal. "Like Chun Downs, Prideaux is a delightful habitat and a prominent local feature. The amazing response to our Chun appeal allowed us to safeguard an important site and at the same time demonstrated that people in Cornwall have a very deep concern for their unique environment."

At the start of the century there were probably more than 10,000 greater horseshoe bats in Britain, but today there are no more than a few hundred. Loss of habitat is the main reason for their disappearance, but they are also sensitive to disturbance. The bat - one of Britain's largest species, the size of a small pear - can be distinguished from other species by the complex horseshoe-shaped noseleaf related to the echo location system.