A rare bat rescued after being found on the ground when she was just three weeks old has found a companion ahead of her release in the spring.
Merri, a grey long-eared bat, has been recovering at RSPCA West Hatch Wildlife Centre in Taunton, Somerset, after being rescued back in August 2017.
Her rescuers initially thought the tiny bat would have to fly back into the wild on her own.
But when Gandalf, a male grey long-eared bat, came in to the care of nearby Secret World Wildlife Rescue, bat rehabilitators decided to pair them up so they could be released together.
India Long, a staff member at RSPCA and bat expert, said: “Merri was tiny when she first came in to us – she only weighed 5g and needed round-the-clock care.
“She was really frail and close to death. We weren’t sure if she would make it so it’s amazing that she has pulled through so well. She has more than doubled in weight.
“She had been living alongside brown long-eared bats before Gandalf came along – but they seem to have really hit it off as they cuddle up on one side of the room, and the brown long-eared bats are huddled up together on the other side of the room.
“We’re all really looking forward to releasing her – and her new friend – back into the wild.”
Ms Long says she does not know if their love story will last, although the team are hoping that it will.
She said: “We are going to set up a special bat box for them where they are going to be released in the hope they will roost there.
“It has to have an apex roof so they can fit in with their longs ears.”
Grey long-eared bats are believed to one of the rarest bats in England and among the rarest mammals.
Ms Long said: “There’s thought to be only around 1,000 of them in this country so to have two in the same area that need help and can then be released together is incredible!”