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Award for Otley 'bat woman'
A volunteer from Otley who is truly ‘batty’ about wildlife has been honoured for her outstanding conservation work.
Maggie Brown was presented with the Pete Guest Award at the Bat Conservation Trust’s National Bat Conference last weekend.
Maggie runs the West Yorkshire Bat Group’s Hospital from her home in Otley and the accolade recognises her “unfailing hard work in bat care”.
It was also awarded for the training and workshops she provides to help others care for injured animals and the bat care manual she was written as a guide for fellow volunteers.
She said: “I’m overwhelmed and surprised. For 28 years, along with my husband, I have been doing what I can in different ways to contribute towards the conservation of bats, but then so have many other volunteers. I’m a bit of a Jack of all trades – I have run a bat group, organised and carried out surveys, campaigned against disturbance to colonies, reassured people who ring for advice, introduced children to bats and edited a newsletter and manual to help bat carers.
“But I’m probably best known for pushing the boundaries of bat rehabilitation, particularly rearing lost baby bats for release.”
Lisa Worledge, of the Bat Conservation Trust, said the work of volunteers like Maggie was playing a crucial role in protecting the UK’s 17 breeding resident species of bat.
She said: “The Pete Guest Award highlights the invaluable work undertaken by all dedicated volunteers in bat conservation.
“Numbers of British bats declined steeply in the last century due to changes in farming techniques and urban and rural development. Bats really do need all the help they can get and we’d urge more people to get involved with their conservation.”
Otley has a colony of Daubenton’s bats – also known as water bats because of their habit of hunting insects on the surface of rivers, lakes and canals – which roosts beneath Otley Bridge and, like all UK bats, is protected.
Maggie is equally enthusiastic about all our species, and had this advice for anyone interested in finding out how to get involved. She said: “Find someone in your area who is already involved in bat conservation and support them in whatever way you can.
“If you can’t manage that, read up about bats, try the BCT website, and use what you learn to change the attitudes of people around you who are hostile to bats.
“Finally, if you have a cat keep it in for an hour either side of dusk, because cats cause more individual casualties than any other single cause, apart from roost and habitat loss.”
Established in memory of an inspirational figure in bat conservation, the Pete Guest Award is voted for by those active in the field.
More information can be found at bats.org.uk and anyone who finds an injured or grounded bat can get advice by calling The National Bat Helpline on 0845 1300 228.
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