Monday, 27 April 2015

Roz Hutchinson, the BCT's Trusts and Grants fundraiser discusses: Fundraising for BCT       

I have been fundraising for BCT for nearly five years and I can say hand on heart that this has been one of the most challenging roles that I have taken on.  Bats do tend to polarize people’s opinions.  It seems you either love them or hate them – a bit like Marmite.  But, as with most things, there is an interesting back story about why we should conserve these mesmerizing creatures that are so rarely seen but if you are lucky they are near where you live, work and play.  If they are not, you should be worried because it means that your environment is failing.  Bats are one of the UK’s Biodiversity Indicators of a healthy environment and their success or failure is an indicator of how well the UK’s environmental health is doing.  They are also legally protected, so all 17 species that are known to be  flying around the UK really should be flourishing.  However, rapid modernisation and urbanisation has meant that in the last century we saw their numbers dwindle to dangerously low levels.  So after nearly 25 years’ hard work, BCT is beginning to see conservation efforts based on effective monitoring, study and guidance having a stabilizing effect - albeit that the numbers are at a much lower level than in the early 20th century.  So we can see that concerted and effective efforts to conserve the bats’ habitats does work.

Australian Fruit Bat

Thus we have a good news story.  Remember even though bats may not be the most popular species in the UK, they are unique, they are living on the edge and they are the most effective natural insecticide we have.

I work in a specific field of fundraising with a range of funders who can be quite well known or entirely confidential.  Some need to know very little about our everyday activities understanding the strategic impact that we make and others are more interested in specific projects.  Their contributions together with our supporters’ donations - both individual and corporate - are vital to our activities to ensure that bats and people not only survive together but thrive together.

Grey long-eared bat (©Hugh Clark)

We currently have a small but growing number of organisations that support our work and we are always looking for new ways to engage organisations and their work forces; again we have a small number of volunteer fundraisers who donate their time to our cause.  We would love to hear from anyone with new ideas about how we could work with corporate organisations in your area or if you would be prepared to help us as a volunteer fundraiser – do call or email (and then put in relevant contact).  If you think you might want to get involved.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

We talked to Lizzie Barker, Director of Creature Candy and full-time ecologist, about her love for bats, wildlife and giving to charity:

Q.       Do you have a memorable bat experience?
My first encounter with a bat was pretty memorable, as Im sure it is for most people. It was a brown long-eared bat we had uncovered during some roofing works and I remember thinking how beautiful, delicate and innocent it looked. I was shaking with excitement and that feeling stayed with me for several days. Brown long-eared bats are still to this day my favourite bat and is one of the reasons why I chose this species for my first product design. 

Q.       Do you deal with bats a lot during your job as an ecologist?
As a consultant I specialise in bats but most of my survey work involves encounters with foraging bats during emergence surveys, or encounters with bat droppings during building inspections. There are very few opportunities to see bats close up in their roosts or to handle them. If we do find bats we always keep disturbance levels to a minimum and only handle bats if absolutely necessary. It’s always such a pleasure to find a new roost and I still get that excited feeling in my tummy whenever I see one, whether close up or flying in the sky. They are simply magical creatures. 

Q.       What other species do you frequently deal with? 
I have to deal with lots of other protected species in my job, including great crested newts, dormice, reptiles, water voles, otters and badgers. Most of my work is focused around bats though which is how I like it. 

Q.       What is the greatest threat to bats in the UK?
The populations of our UK bat species are unfortunately under threat now due mainly to loss of foraging and roosting habitats, largely as a result of building and development works. As a consultant ecologist, part of my job is to survey buildings, structures and trees that are due to be subjected to development or remedial works. Our role is vital to ensure bat roosts are not unknowingly destroyed and bats are not harmed in the process. We also provide guidance and support on how to best mitigate for such development works and often create many new bat roosting spaces as a result. However, it shouldn’t just be left to the consultants and developers to create new roosts. I think we can all do our bit for bats and encourage them into our gardens and roof spaces. Just some simple wildflower planting would help attract insects, and the bats (and birds) will follow. Simple!

Q.       What made you make the jump and set up Creature Candy?
On a daily basis I work side by side with British wildlife charities and often ask them for guidance and reassurance. They work tirelessly to conserve our threatened species and help raise awareness. I felt the need to give something back and so I came up with the idea of Creature Candy. My primary aim was to raise money for British wildlife charities, however I also wanted to raise awareness of our declining species and offer information to my customers about the species and the charities their donations will help support. We provide fact sheets about each of the species, charity membership forms, and there is also descriptive text on each product. It was also really important to me to try to change people perceptions of bats from dark black silhouettes with fangs and red eyes, to the beautiful charismatic and unique creatures they are. I hope our brown long-eared bat illustration has achieved this. 

Q.       Why did you choose bats, bees and moths to focus your designs around?
The challenge of changing peoples opinions of bats via an illustration and some text was my main motivation for the bat design. I also know the charity (Bat Conservation Trust) very well and admire the wonderful work they do. Supporting them was a no brainer for me. Bees and moths have a wonderful elegance to them and they are both incredibly important in our ecosystem. Getting people to understand them, understand their habitats and encourage them into their gardens imperative. They also look really beautiful as illustrations on our products. However, we are not just stopping at bats, bees and moths, we have lots more design ideas in the pipeline. Watch this space!

Q.       Why did you decide to donate 10% of sales to charity?
Creature Candy is not just about British made products with pretty designs on them. It’s also about education, inspiring people and giving something back. Our wildlife charities operate on such small budgets and without donations from individuals and businesses, both small and large, they wouldn’t be able to operate at all. It gives me the greatest pleasure handing over cheques to them at the end of the financial year. 

Q.       Apart from buying a bat themed product from Creature Candy, what more can people do to further bat conservation?
Learn and get involved. The Bat Conservation Trust website offers lots of advice on creating habitats for bats and encouraging them into our gardens. Planting even the smallest area of wildflowers or putting up just one bat box will contribute to the wider picture and help conserve British bat species. Donations to the BCT and purchasing Creature Candy bat products is also very helpful too!