The West Weald of West Sussex and South Surrey in South East England is home to internationally important populations of the rare and protected species of barbastelle and Bechstein’s bats. The project has been working to create and maintain a ‘living landscape’ that encourages these bats to live and breed. The BBC Wildlife Fund has helped the Sussex Wildlife Trust to implement its landscape programme across the West Weald, supporting the employment of a wildlife manager and specialists to conduct new and innovative surveys of barbastelle and Bechstein’s bats in the area. They have tagged bats with tiny microchips to collect data on their preferred roosts and flight paths. Populations have been monitored annually through many nights of tracking and counting these elusive woodland animals.
20% of the money you raised went to projects in the UK. Here are some of the projects we funded. The UK has a rich variety of wildlife, much of it in decline, so the need for projects like these is essential.
A living landscape for endangered bats in the West Weald, Sussex
Bechstein's Bat survey, England & Wales
The Bat Conservation Trust recruited and trained specialist volunteers from local Bat Groups to survey the Bechstein's bat within our 'best' woodlands. The BBC Wildlife Fund grant contributed to the cost of acquiring the specialist acoustic monitoring equipment needed. By playing back replicas of the bat's own ultrasonic social calls, the elusive Bechstein's bats are attracted into the survey site. They can then be identified, sexed and their breeding status can be assessed. Vital information about other woodland bat species and many biological records have also emerged from this exciting new approach.
Conservation of Thames Seals
The UK is home to nearly 40% of the European population of the common seal Phoca vitulina. The UK common seal population is in steep decline, with numbers falling by up to 50% since 2000. The reason for this decline is unknown. Common seal populations are also shifting southwards, and the waters of the Southern North Sea including the Thames Estuary are increasingly important for their survival. It is vital therefore identify and protect the important habitats including foraging and haul out sites, particularly in light of major infrastructural projects. With the support of the BBC Wildlife Fund this project began to gather this data by using remote telemetry (tagging).
Mapping the Deep
Cold water coral reefs
The 'Mapping the deep' project supported by the BBC Wildlife Fund has provided the data required to tackle the principle cause of destruction of the UK's cold water coral reefs, coral gardens and other vulnerable habitats - destruction caused by contact with bottom trawl gear. By providing maps of their distribution the project has enabled intelligent and effective decisions on appropriate protection measures such as the creation of marine protected areas to be taken.
Bringing Back the Crane
This project with support from the BBC Wildlife fund aimed to help re-establish the crane in the East Anglian Fens. The project recreated nine hectares of damp meadowland habitat at Lakenheath to maintain and increase the current population of resident cranes. The habitat creation has also benefited other priority species with similar habitat requirements, including redshank, snipe, reed bunting, lapwing, skylark and water vole. Improved breeding success will ultimately increase the opportunities for visitors to see cranes at the reserve and raise awareness of the value of wet grassland habitats.
Fen raft spiders for the future
Fen Raft Spider
The Waveney Valley fen raft spider project aims to increase the number of wild populations of the fen raft spider through captive rearing and reintroduction. The new populations will deliver a key UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) target for fen raft spiders and achieve the first step towards re-establishing connected populations within the Waveney Valley.
’Hedgehog Street’ sought to conserve a threatened species on a landscape scale through community support in urban areas. With BBC Wildlife Fund support, the project was carried out not in isolation but as a very important and discrete part of a wider hedgehog project working with other conservation bodies and funding research into all possible causes for the population decline. The project raised awareness and empowered all sections of society to make a real difference in their own environment (green space or garden) whilst also working with rural landowners and land managers to change their perception of the once common hedgehog. Hedgehog Street recruited volunteer hedgehog champions who rallied support from their neighbours to create ideal hedgehog habitat throughout their street, estate or communal grounds. This project was enthusiastically taken up by the media, increasing the profile of this species and its recent significant decline.
Satellite Tracking Cuckoos
With BBC Wildlife Fund support, the project aimed to identify the migration routes, stop-over sites and wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa of the declining UK cuckoo population, by monitoring their movements with satellite tags. This information is urgently needed to initiate appropriate conservation strategies. Further work will aim to establish how the identified areas are changing and impacting on the cuckoos and other migratory species. The project has been hugely successful in raising awareness within the UK and the African host countries about threats to migratory birds.
Sustainable Fish City
Sustainable Fish City is an initiative to turn London into the world's first city where businesses, the public sector and citizens buy, sell and eat only fish from sustainable sources. The project has been influential, particularly with significant procurers of fish, such as major catering companies and succeeded in persuading the organisers of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to commit to sourcing only sustainable fish. Like Fair Trade Towns, it is hoped to spread the Sustainable Fish City idea all over the country – two further locations have adopted the concept already. This will increase demand for sustainable fish, thereby providing a long-term viable market for sustainable fisheries and their communities and protect seafood stocks and marine ecosystems.
Expanding the Large Blue butterfly landscape in the Polden Hills
Large blue butterfly
With the support of the BBC Wildlife Fund, the project carried out habitat restoration on a network of 15 ecologically linked sites in the Polden Hills in Somerset, which supports nearly 80% of the British Large Blue population. This has strengthened existing populations of the formerly extinct Large Blue butterfly and new populations have re-colonised unoccupied sites.
Saving the Shining Ram's-horn
Shining ram's-horn snail
BBC Wildlife Fund support has helped to secure the future of the shining ram's-horn snail by improving and creating sustainable wetland habitat available to shining ram's-horn snails in the Lower Stour Marshes. Existing populations and their habitats have been safeguarded and 'ark' sites identified for future reintroductions of the species. The project has raised awareness amongst the local and wider Kent community of the importance of shining ram's-horn snail conservation and the enormous ecological value of grazing marsh habitat, particular through volunteering opportunities and links with colleges.
Knowledge of the ecological requirements of this species has been significantly increased, which will improve management of habitats in the future for its conservation.
With BBC Wildlife Fund support, this project aimed to combat stag beetle decline by maintaining an assessment of the conservation status of the species, through public data collection, increasing public awareness and involvement in conservation of the stag beetle, through the promotion of simple things people can do to help this endangered insect. New stag beetle habitats (“Staggeries”) were created by local volunteers in several London Boroughs.
Crayfish in Crisis
The broad aim of the project supported was to prevent the extinction of the white-clawed crayfish from South West England. The project focus is on establishing safe haven Ark sites for white-clawed crayfish, these are refuges safe from the threat of non-native crayfish and crayfish plague. Ark sites are now being used to conserve local populations of white-clawed crayfish. Buglife and the project partners have worked to conserve the remaining wild populations by engaging and advising land owners, land managers, and other users of the countryside. This continuing project is part of the South West Crayfish Conservation Strategy.
Adonis Blue Butterfly Recovery Project
Adonis Blue Butterfly
The BBC Wildlife Fund grant contributed to work by the Sussex Wildlife Trust to restore the habitats of Malling Down. This chalk down has a sheltered south facing slope, much loved by the Adonis Blue, a rare species of butterfly. Scrub that had grown up over the years was removed to restore grassland and the area was fenced off. Ewes were bought to graze the downland and help maintain the close-cropped turf needed for the horseshoe vetch and butterfly to re-establish. This management is encouraging the food plant to grow again and the butterfly to flourish.
Seaquest Basking Shark Project
A basking shark sightings recording scheme was established in Cornwall. Trained volunteers actively collected basking shark records by surveying 'hotspots' of high activity from the land from dawn to dusk. This supplemented information from casual sightings and linked into existing marine monitoring schemes. The funding to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust enabled volunteers to be recruited and trained to observe and record basking sharks and other wildlife, including seals, dolphins, whales and ocean sun fish. Existing volunteers who document marine-life strandings around the coast were also taught to gather additional basking shark information.
Habitat and Connectivity for Bechstein’s Bat
The work of the Bechstein's bat project, supported by the Fund aims to produce a distribution map for this species across its UK range. This work will highlight priority areas for this species where conservation and woodland management work should be targeted. It will also allow follow up work with individual landowners and woodlands where Bechstein's bat and other woodland specialist bat species have been recorded.
Reedbed management for Bitterns in Suffolk
The RSPB is helping bitterns and other wetland species by providing and maintaining conditions to best fulfil all the bird's different feeding and breeding needs. As a result of grants from the BBC Wildlife Fund, RSPB staff and volunteers have received the necessary equipment, training and supervision to carry out practical management of the reedbeds by hand wherever possible.
Local volunteers working to conserve habitat for a priority butterfly
Black Hairstreak Butterfly
With the BBC Wildlife Fund grant the Wildlife Trust, with the help of local volunteers, has enhanced Glapthorn Cow Pastures for butterflies. This woodland nature reserve supports a key black hairstreak colony and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for the species. Local publicity to raise awareness successfully recruited additional volunteers to the project and fostered community support towards its aims.
Cirl Bunting Reintroduction Project
As the cirl bunting is unable to successfully disperse into other areas on its own, reintroduction was the only viable means of establishing breeding populations away from south Devon, in order to provide an increased chance of survival. This project delivered the key step of taking some buntings from their Devon stronghold and releasing them under controlled conditions into suitable sites in neighbouring Cornwall.
Homes for Dormice
A grant of £15,000 to the Kent Mammal Group is helping them provide dormice with new woodland homes and nest boxes. A total of 25 volunteers undertook training courses resulting in them being able to assist experienced surveyors throughout the county with regular nest box surveys. The hope is that the volunteers can then obtain their own dormouse handling licences at the end of the season. A licence enables them to take on their own local sites for surveying. Equipment for surveying was purchased, ensuring new suitable nest box sites were scouted. Volunteers have now surveyed a number of woodlands in Kent and their suitability for dormouse assessed. Ten of these have now been chosen as new monitoring sites with nest boxes put in place.
Horseshoe Bats in the Mendip Hills
Greater & Lesser Horseshoe Bats and Dormice
With the BBC Wildlife Fund grant the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group surveyed the hills of east Mendip for dormice and bats. Volunteers laid tubes to catch and record rare dormice and identify suitable hedges and woods in which these tiny creatures could live. Surveys were also carried out for the horseshoe bats. Understanding how populations of these species are affected will help to encourage farmers and landowners to maintain mice and bat habitats.
Promotion of bat conservation with local schools and youth groups
With support from the BBC Wildlife Fund the project aimed to extend the experiences and effectiveness of a programme for raising young people's awareness of bats. The Woodchester Mansion has a famous and well-studied population of greater horseshoe bats, providing an ideal location for young people to learn about bats. Bat detectors were bought and used successfully with groups of young visitors.
Great Bustard Education Project
A grant of £14,925 has enabled the Great Bustard Group to improve its community education programme, raise awareness and provide a greater number of people with the means to view these magnificent birds without disturbing them at their release site.
Scotland's forgotten cetacean
A grant of £5,000 has helped the The Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust to survey the island's porpoises from their dedicated yacht Silurian and to raise awareness and appreciation of cetaceans among members of local coastal communities. The grant supported two components of work conducted from the boat operating in Hebridean waters. One focused on an acoustic monitoring survey for harbour porpoises. They can be difficult for on-board volunteers to record visually as they surface only briefly to breathe gently with a slight puffing noise. The acoustic survey enables detection of activity even when the animals are not easily seen, for example in rough seas.
Hen Harrier Nest Protection in Northumberland
With BBC Wildlife Fund support for the RSPB hen harrier project, a committed team was able to provide 24 hour nest watches on rare breeding pairs and their chicks. Whilst the breeding success of hen harriers is so precarious in England, it is vital that every nesting attempt is protected from illegal persecution. The watches have involved RSPB staff mainly covering the long night duties. However, volunteers have given a significant proportion of the daily protection time, and are critical to the success of each brood. Wider RSPB work with the public using hen harriers as a flagship species has increased understanding of the need to restore healthy upland ecosystems as part of the proper functioning of the countryside.
Outer Moray Firth Cetacean Research project
The BBC Wildlife Fund grant enabled the extension of existing research within the inner Moray Firth, out into the waters beyond that make up the less studied outer Firth. Visual and acoustic boat-based surveys for cetaceans were undertaken in different months, including the first ever winter surveys in this region. The research was designed to map the distribution of cetacean species, estimate the abundance of harbour porpoises and whales and build a photo ID catalogue of individual dolphins. The surveys were led by WDCS scientists with many volunteers. The data produced has helped to prove the high value of these waters for cetaceans. A report compiled for government was used to inform marine management and conservation plans in the region.
Community Owls Project, SW England
The BBC Wildlife Fund grant has been used to develop three local community owl project groups and support a project officer working within 17 areas within North Somerset. The work engaged local people in conservation of the wildlife around them by using owls as flagship species. It enabled them to deliver practical, targeted conservation as well as research and monitoring.
Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project
The Brecknock Wildlife Trust is trying to save the red squirrel in Wales. A BBC Wildlife Fund grant helped to survey how many red squirrels live in mid-Wales and where they are feeding. With this knowledge, plans can be developed effectively to manage woodlands to keep the red squirrel safe from excessive predation and from invading, non-native grey squirrels, which tend to replace reds.
Slow Worm Project
BBC Wildlife Fund support was given to enable Slow Worm specialists survey the lizards, learn about their status and educate Nature Reserve wardens about how best to protect these endangered legless lizards. The City of Worcester has a very large population of slow-worms and could lay claim to be the most important city in Britain for this shy reptile.
Twite Recovery South Pennines
The BBC Wildlife Fund grant contributed to the completion of a twite inventory and towards a habitat intervention fund. All twite colonies and suitable habitat nearby were surveyed by a team of volunteers with input from staff. Fifty skilled volunteers surveyed 48 sites covering at least 100km² of moorland. Habitat intervention work followed on quickly so that the baseline data was relevant when the success of boosting seed availability was assessed. Re-seeding with crucial food plants took place on some land and wherever possible good habitat was brought into agri-environment funding agreements.
Mull Eagle Watch, Mull & Iona
White Tailed Sea Eagle
White tailed sea eagles are a spectacular sight once more across the Isle of Mull in West Scotland, due in part to the actions of the Mull Eagle Watch Project, which aimed to establish 65 breeding pairs of White-Tailed Eagles on the west coast of Scotland by 2012. The BBC Wildlife Fund grant helped pay for a purpose-built hide to monitor three nests. The hide is used regularly by both conservationists and school children keen to glimpse this huge raptor, while volunteers watch over nests to protect them from egg thieves and disturbance.
Restoration Project, River Wandle, London
Initially, the project planned to release water voles along the River Wandle. However, after preliminary site checks, the habitat was found to be not yet suitable; still lacking adequate food and shelter. Alternative sites were chosen and populations of water voles were introduced to the Millstream in East Malling and the Roman river in Essex. Both sites historically had water voles but these populations had been wiped out due to predation by non-native American mink or habitat becoming unsuitable due to over-grazing and over-shading by trees. The grant enabled the Wildwood Trust’s Water Vole Restoration Project to breed 150 animals in captivity and release 70 on to the two suitable sites. Microchip tags and health screenings for all animals were also supported.
This project supported by the Fund aims to increase scientific understanding of endangered marine species and habitats through conducting and facilitating research, as well as increasing public appreciation and awareness of the marine environment. The project has directly gathered further information on basking sharks in Manx waters and the pupping of grey seals on the Island. The data gathered is used to influence the Manx Government in its considerations of marine environmental protection.
Defining the Boundaries: Protecting the UK’s whales, dolphins and porpoises
Whales, Dolphins & Porpoises
In three key locations in UK waters, the project used Fund support to identify and address critical gaps in baseline data using scientific studies to identify species’ distributions, habitat use, population trends and emerging threats.
To deliver this, the project engaged with communities and raised the profile of cetaceans. Results were disseminated widely but with an emphasis on feeding back to local communities to increase their engagement.
The ultimate aim of this project is to provide data to decision makers to ensure that marine protection is well-designed and therefore effective.
Explore another region
Click on a region below to find out about some of the projects we funded there.