• DNA analysis was done on the bat's droppings
  • It was eventually confirmed to be a grey long-eared bat
  • It is estimated that only 1,000 grey long-eared bats remain in England

A grey long-eared bat, considered one of the rarest in the U.K., has been found roosting inside a church in the Blackdown Hills area of the country.

The species was identified after volunteers for the National Bats in Churches Survey ran a DNA analysis of its droppings, BBC News reported.

The discovery is extremely special, as this particular species of bat is very rare. Experts reportedly estimate that only 1,000 grey long-earned bats remain in England since they have suffered from prolonged and constant loss of habitat.

A lot of this is said to result from the heavy depletion of "unimproved grassland" or open spaces which have never been plowed, heavily fertilized or reseeded. Such grasslands and open areas have decreased rapidly by as much as 92%, the Bat Conservation Trust said, according to the outlet.

Considering these circumstances, the discovery of the rare bat has been greeted with joy by conservationists and bat research centers across the country.

"It's very encouraging to be aware of more records coming in from Somerset," Carol Williams, director of conservation at Bat Conservation Trust, said, as per the outlet. "When there are so few of this species left in England, knowing where the remaining animals are is of great importance."

It is also considered a win for the National Bats in Churches Survey, which has so far "carried out bat mitigation works in over 30 project churches" and is "closely monitoring the results," according to its website.

"Through the National Bats in Churches Survey we've gained records from more than 700 churches across the country, showing the power of citizen science." Edward Wells, a member of Somerset Bat Group, said, as reported by BBC News. "What is quite clear is that we are getting more and more records of grey long-eared bats coming over the last five years."

Notably, this is only the second time the National Bats in Churches Survey has discovered the species. The earlier one was made in East Devon in 2020.

Claire Boothby, training and surveys officer at Bats in Churches, said, "As we know so few grey long-eared bat roosting sites, each confirmation of the species is precious."

Boothby went on to share that since grey long-eared bats are similar to brown long-eared bats in appearance, the team had to analyze the droppings to confirm the identity of the species.

The grey long-eared bat was reportedly one of the 20 species that was included in the Back from the Brink project, whose goal was to "save some of our most threatened species from extinction and reverse their fortunes to put them back on the road to recovery," between 2017 and 2021.

Pictured: Representative image of a bat. Jose Miguel Guardeño/Pixabay