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logo: Bat Conservation Trust

Finding a part-time conservation volunteer role is a tough nut to crack. In my own modest experience (whilst at University) part-time volunteer jobs that I could fit around working hours and which provided me with transferable skills were somewhat elusive.

The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) Out of Hours (OOH) service ticks both the fit-around-work box and the transferable-skills box. It also involves saving bat lives, protecting roosts and raising bat awareness.   Be prepared though, in doing so it also throws up fresh challenges.

Brown Long-eared Bat close-up on a tree  (John Altringham/BCT)
Brown Long-eared Bat close-up on a tree (John Altringham/BCT)

Let me elaborate.

During the months of May through to September the bat world becomes a flurry of activity: hunting is in full swing, females are diligently searching for nursery sites, and young are being born and nursed.     This of course greatly increases bat-human interactions and as such BCT offers an OOH Bat Helpline to help deal with the deluge of emergency calls.

This OOH Bat Helpline is almost entirely powered by volunteers (ably backed by BCT staff) and this is how it works:

  • Come 5.30pm the BCT office shuts down and its staff troop home.  At this point our Bat Helpline phones are diverted to the home telephones of the generous volunteer who is on duty that evening.

  • An automated message system acts as a filter and, hopefully, only emergency queries are put through to the volunteer.  These could include queries about grounded or injured bats, bats trapped in houses, and potential bat crimes.  Volunteers typically answer around 15 calls a shift during the busiest period in July and August with far fewer calls outside of these months.
  • The next morning lines are diverted back to the office at 9am unless it is a weekend and then the line is diverted to the next volunteer.

In April volunteers receive extensive training on all manner of bat related subjects so that they are fully prepared for the plethora of queries that will come their way.

logo: Year of the Bat 2011-2012

By the end of their time with us volunteers will have extensive knowledge relating to bats and their conservation (bat crime, legal protection afforded them, bat care), they will have also gained invaluable customer service skills (including the ability to counsel frightened callers) and a greater understanding of how charity organisations such as ourselves function.

All of this is done from home and outside of work hours. This is an extremely important service and it would not be possible to run such a service without volunteers.   We cannot thank our past Out of Hours Teams and future Out of Hours Teams enough for their generosity.

If you are at all interested in volunteering for this project, or would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact me on 0845 1300 228 or ztubbs@bats.org.uk.     Further information can also be found on our website www.bats.org.uk/pages/bat_helpline.html.

First published in CJS Focus on Volunteering in association with The Scottish Countryside Rangers Association and the Countryside Management Association on 14 February 2011