A couple from Sandown are to receive a special award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), recognising many years of dedication to rescuing and rehabilitating injured or sick bats.
Wildlife enthusiasts Donna, 57 and Graham Street, 61 have been caring for sick and injured bats on the Island since 1997. During this time, they have rescued more than 1,600 bats of various species and have developed extensive knowledge and experience which helps them answer requests from all over the world.
The couple founded the Isle of Wight Bat Hospital when their son found an injured bat at school. It is run from their home where they provide a free 24-hour rescue service for sick, injured and orphaned bats, aiming to reach any bat in need within an hour of a call for help. The Streets have converted two of their rooms into purpose-built aviaries to house both long and short-term patients.
The most common reason that bats are admitted to the hospital is because they have been attacked by a cat. Sometimes the couple receive three or four calls in one day, mostly to help juvenile bats with torn wings. Other bats are injured as they emerge from hibernation and become caught up in cobwebs and some are poisoned by woodworm treatment. Serious injuries are dealt with by a local veterinary surgery, but the rest are cared for by the Streets.
The hospital has approximately 100 patients per year, with 70% being returned to the wild. Bats may take from a couple of months to a year or more to rehabilitate before they can be released. Those which cannot be released are given a permanent home and around 50 bats currently reside at the hospital.
The Isle of Wight is fortunate to have 14 of the 18 British bat species but bat species all over the UK are in decline. Many of the places bats use to feed or roost have been destroyed to make way for buildings and roads or other changes in land use. The use of pesticides and insecticides, the felling of old woodlands, drainage of wetlands and removal of hedgerows are all damaging to bats and their survival. The conversion of barns and lofts is also detrimental to bats and their future.
Azzedine Downes, President and CEO of IFAW, said:
“Donna and Graham’s dedication has seen them rescue hundreds of bats over the years and they are a great example of animal welfare in action. They are very deserving winners of IFAW’s Conservation Award.”
“It is a great honour to have been nominated for the award and to receive it will be a sheer delight. It is a great opportunity to highlight the plight of bats. We hope it will benefit all species of bats in the long-term and make people more aware of the need to protect them.”
In addition to the hands on care of bats in need, Donna and Graham give up their time to hold numerous talks and events for the public and at local schools, to raise awareness of bat issues. They also carry out many local bat surveys, and advise the public and local council on protection of bat roosts as well as training young people to help bats in the future.
The Streets will receive their award at IFAW’s prestigious Animal Action Awards event, hosted by Baroness Gale and presented by TV wildlife presenter Bill Oddie at the House of Lords on Tuesday 21st October.