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Bat killing fungus is found for the first time in UK - in Sevenoaks

By Sevenoaks Chronicle  |  Posted: August 08, 2013

Under threat: A bat with the condition

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A DEADLY fungus which has killed millions of bats across America has been discovered in the UK for the first time – in a Sevenoaks roost.

The Bat Conservation Trust this week refused to say exactly where in the district it had found Geomyces destructans, but confirmed it was in the area.

The fungus causes a condition called “white-nose syndrome” which has been associated with the deaths of more than 5.7million bats in North America since 2006.

And so concerned are experts that they have been looking for the organism since 2009.

But a spokesman for the Bat Conservation Trust said that, although the disease has severely depleted bat numbers across the Atlantic, many of their British counterparts could be immune.

“In America the fungus can kill 90-100 per cent of bats in a hibernation roost, in Europe it looks like bats can carry the fungus without affecting the population,” she said.

“Scientists believe that large parts of the UK could be suitable for the fungus, but we need to test this theory by carrying out further survey work across the UK during the next winter hibernation period.

“Current research and findings do indicate that, like in other European countries, the UK’s bats are likely to be resistant. It is very important that we investigate further to better understand the effect of the fungus on UK bats.”

Unlike in North America, there has been no observed mass die-off of bats, which could indicate UK bats may be resistant to the fungus.

In North America the fungus causes white-nose syndrome (WNS) which has devastated many bat populations on the continent.

The fungus, but not WNS, has previously been confirmed at sites across Europe, but without the associated large numbers of dead bats.

However, the Bat Conservation Trust is asking those visiting hibernation sites, such as caves, in the winter to remain vigilant.

Anyone with concerns can call the National Bat Helpline 0845 1300 228.

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