A new wildlife group has formed in Tavistock following the success of a community bat survey project which has detected a rare species flying over the canal and river.

Wild Tavi is the name of the new group which has discovered a thriving bat population over Tavistock Canal, the Tamar, trees and open land such as Whitchurch Common.

The new group will organise other wildlife surveys and help support biodiversity, backed by Tavistock Town Council which has a strong environmental policies covering the wildlife area of Tavistock Cemetery, pollinator insect friendly planters and bus stops with garden rooves. On the back of these achievments the council won a bat monitor in a regional environmental competition and engaged with residents in using the monitor as part of the National Bat Monitoring Programme.

Town councillor Ursula Mann took the lead in using the monitor with surveys to back up the programme run by the national Bat Conservation Trust. She said: “Bat numbers in the UK have declined dramatically over the last century. The new monitor allows local residents to monitor nearby bats by taking part in surveys and observing these fascinating mammals in the Tavistock area. By monitoring bats volunteers can discover how bats are faring and the factors that are important for their survival. The National Bat Monitoring Programme has been running since 1996. It gives local people, and government the information needed to help inform bat conservation.

“To train volunteers and leaders, the Catholic church of Our Lady of Assumption and St Mary Magdalene was an ideal training ground with regular appearances of both soprano and common pipistrelles just after sunset. Father Cyriacus Uzochukwu graciously allowed the group to meet there over several weekends to recruit and train volunteers.”

This summer volunteers took part in six bat surveys by designing and walking a triangular route and recorded noctule, serotine, common and soprano pipistrelle bat activity. The waterway survey on the River Tavy and one on the Tavistock canal were completed to monitor activity of Daubenton’s bats with a heterodyne bat detector and a torch. This revealed that Tavistock is home to a large number of this rare species of water bat. In fact, the Devon Bat Group also visited the canal site separately to take infrared video and witness these bats along the canal. Inspired by this project, the volunteers have adopted the name ‘Wild Tavi’ for the group in order to organise other wildlife surveys and actions to encourage and track biodiversity. Devon Bat Group said: “Devon is lucky to have some really special bats including Lesser and Greater Horseshoes, Nathusius Pipistrelles and Grey Long Eared bats.”

Anyone wishing to join Wild Tavi can contact the Tavistock Town Council works manager 01822 616134 [email protected]