Thursday, 14 May 2009

An insight into BCT's Bat Helpline helpers!

Crystal Schintz has worked as a BCT Helpline Officer since March last year. Here she shares with you her lack of movie knowledge, what her role at BCT involves and her love of all things batty!

What do you like most about working for BCT/Helpline? I like the feeling that the work I’m doing is making a difference for British bats. It’s great when you take a call from a frightened homeowner wanting to get rid of the bats they’ve just discovered in their loft, but by the end of the call, they’re referring to their little guests as ‘my bats’ and wanting to know how they can help keep them safe and happy.

Tell us about an interesting call you’ve had recently. I’ve recently had a gentleman ask if he could post me an injured bat from Scotland because he didn’t have any bat carers near him. Other bats have been reported to be eating stiletto shoes or leaving footprints on counters after eating all the fruit in the fruit bowl.

Which native bat species is your favourite (and why)? The long-eared bats are ridiculously cute and their sweet little faces have a remarkable ability of melting even the coldest of anti-bat hearts. I also have a bit of a soft spot for our very own “Lonely George” – the one and only greater mouse-eared bat in the UK.

Somebody calls saying they think they’ve got bats in their house but they’re a bit freaked out. What do you tell them? The truth! Bats are good guests - They do not chew woodwork, fabric or cables, nor build nests, and there is no known health risks associated with their bat droppings. A small number of one species of bat in the UK (we have 17 species) do carry a rabies type virus but there is no risk to a homeowner unless handling a bat. If a grounded bat was found, handling the bat with thick gloves (and contacting the BCT helpline for advice) would remove any potential risk.

My advice would be to invite over your friends and family for a BBQ and watch the bats emerge from their roost at dusk – it’s really cool to see! And as an added bonus, the bats eat loads of those pesky little midges!

Is there an actual big red flashing ‘bat phone’ that you all take it in turns to answer? You know, when I started at BCT, friends kept asking me that and I didn’t get it the reference - I blame the fact that I grew up in the countryside for my lack of movie knowledge. It has since been explained to me, but I’ve still never seen any of the Batman films…disgraceful, aren’t I? Oh right, back to the phone. If by big you mean normal sized, by red you mean black and by flashing you’re referring to the small red light that flashes when it rings…then yes. Yes there is.

It’s usually tigers, monkeys or polar bears that get all the conservation attention in the media. What drew you to help bats? The fact that tigers, monkeys or polar bears get all the conservation attention in the media! When’s the last time you saw a polar bear echolocating (the sonar used by bats to navigate) or a monkey flying? Bats are truly remarkable mammals and deserve just as much help as tigers!

Batman looks like he can handle himself pretty well – so why do bats need our help? I think they’re really misunderstood and sadly suffer a bad reputation as a result of some negative media and myths. Plus it is quite largely a result of human activities that bats need help (loss of natural habitats, destruction of flight lines, encroachment on feeding areas, building and development etc), so it is really rewarding that my activities as a human can repair some of the damage done!

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